School Board approves additions at River Ridge, May River

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The Beaufort County Board of Education last week approved using fiscal year 2021 “8 percent funds” to design and construct classroom additions planned for River Ridge Academy and also to design a two-story classroom addition planned for May River High School.

South Carolina law allows school districts to borrow up to 8 percent of their total assessed property value for school capital projects without going to voters for a referendum. Eight percent financing was also used to construct May River High School and the competition gymnasium and performing arts center at Whale Branch Early College High School.

The board’s decision will allow design work, permitting and bidding of the River Ridge Academy addition to begin in January and be completed by November 2019. That would allow construction to begin December 2019 and allow the additional classrooms to be available in time for the 2020-21 school year.

The approval to design, obtain permits for and bid the May River High addition might allow those classrooms to be available later in the 2020-21 academic year if the board were to later approve construction funds.

“The Board’s approval means that district staff can now begin the design, construction permitting and bidding at River Ridge,” said district Chief Operations Officer Robert Oetting. “That will allow us to move forward quickly with the goal of having additional classrooms at River Ridge available in time for the 2020-21 school year.”

Both River Ridge and May River were originally designed to be expanded with additional classroom wings based on student enrollment and the availability of funds. The Bluffton area – particularly in the attendance zones served by River Ridge and May River – has seen dramatic growth in the past few years.

The Board also voted to authorize the superintendent to reassign students in newly developed neighborhoods from the overcrowded schools they normally would attend to schools with more classroom space.  The overall concept was suggested by parents who attended public forums earlier this fall.

New neighborhoods currently being developed in the Bluffton area would be some of the first neighborhoods to be considered for this type of school assignment.  Any new assignments would be reviewed by the Board of Education prior to implementation.

The Board has not yet made any decisions on attendance zone changes for the 2019-20 school year.

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