From staff reports
BEAUFORT – School officials, students, Board of Education members, and community supporters celebrated Dec. 7, the beginning of construction on the district’s largest referendum project to be funded through the bond referendum approved by county voters in November 2019.
The new school will be located behind the existing building, which will ultimately be demolished. Site work has already started and large-scale construction will begin in January 2022, with an anticipated completion date for the new school building of August 2023. Athletic facilities will be completed in January 2024. A total of $62 million in referendum funds was budgeted for the Robert Smalls International Academy (RSIA) project that includes, but is not limited to:
Two floors and four wings;
Outdoor learning pavilions and spaces;
Two-story lobby that pays tribute to the life and journey of Robert Smalls;
Corridor with a historical timeline depicting the school’s history as well as significant local, state, and national events;
New athletic fields;
Increased parking and additional space for car riders; and
Exterior detailing resembling the C.S.S. Planter, the ship commandeered by Robert Smalls
Speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included Board of Education Chair Christina Gwozdz, Superintendent Frank Rodriguez, and Robert Smalls International Academy Principal Bradley Tarrance.
“This significant project is made possible from the referendum approved by voters in November of 2019,” Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said in a press release, expressing gratitude for having significant community input even during the pandemic. “Based on the strong participation in public meetings held via Zoom early on in this process, we are confident the K-8 facility is going to reflect the community’s desires for years to come.”
Board of Education Chair Christina Gwozdz also expressed her enthusiasm for the longevity and significance of this project. “May generations of Beaufort students, their families, and school staff enjoy this new facility,” Gwozdz said. “Perhaps someday it will also be designated as a national Historic Landmark.”
Kansas City-based J.E. Dunn Construction is the contractor for the renovations and the designer of record is LS3P Associates Ltd. of Charleston.
All referendum projects and expenditures are being independently monitored by the Citizen-Led Oversight Committee.