The Beaufort County Board of Education voted Tuesday, June 18, to hold a county-wide bond referendum in November aimed at improving school safety, renovating inadequate facilities and adding classroom space to address enrollment growth.
The Nov. 5 referendum will ask county residents to vote on two separate questions:
The first question will seek voter approval for $290 million in safety and security upgrades at all district schools; technology infrastructure upgrades at schools district-wide; classroom additions at River Ridge Academy and May River High; a replacement building for Robert Smalls International Academy; and renovations at three schools (Beaufort Elementary, Hilton Head Island Middle and Battery Creek High).
The second question will ask voters to consider an additional $54 million in Career and Technology Education expansions at Battery Creek and May River high schools; design work for renovations at Hilton Head Island High; improvements to athletic facilities at district middle and high schools; and playground improvements at early childhood centers, elementary and PreK-8 schools. The second question will only go into effect only if the first question is approved.
All of the projects were included in a comprehensive list of $629 million in facilities needs identified earlier this year by an independent committee of county residents. Members of the Community Project Review Committee worked more than 900 hours – visiting 26 schools in Beaufort and other districts and receiving presentations from outside experts – before producing the district-wide projects list that was sent to Interim Superintendent Herb Berg. CPRC members also received presentations from a safety and security consulting firm, a demographer, four architectural consultants, the Town of Bluffton, a playground equipment vendor, a furniture vendor and district staff.
Berg went to the Board of Education on May 7 and recommended a November referendum that would fund a portion of the CPRC’s overall $629 million projects list.
Berg said growing school districts generally need to approve a bond referendum every four to five years to accommodate increasing enrollment and preserve existing facilities. Beaufort County’s last successful bond referendum was 11 years ago, and county voters rejected bond referendums in 2016 and 2018.
On Tuesday night, Board members made adjustments to Berg’s May 7 recommendations before voting to proceed with a referendum on Nov. 5.
Cost estimates for referendum projects were developed by a private-sector firm contracted by the school district.
A total of $290,555,000 to:
- Acquire, install and construct school safety and security improvements district-wide.
- Acquire, install and construct technology infrastructure and related equipment district-wide.
- Construct and equip a replacement school for Robert Smalls International Academy (includes demolishing the existing facility).
- Construct and equip additions at May River High and River Ridge Academy.
- Construct and equip renovations at Beaufort Elementary.
- Construct and equip renovations and additions at Battery Creek High and Hilton Head Island Middle, including demolition where necessary.
Question 2 (only if Question 1 is approved by voters):
A total of $54,055,000 to:
- Construct, renovate, expand and equip space for Career and Technology Education programs at Battery Creek High and May River High.
- Design renovations for Hilton Head High.
- Construct and equip athletic improvements at Beaufort Middle, Whale Branch Middle, River Ridge Academy, Bluffton Middle and H. E. McCracken Middle.
- Construct and equip athletic improvements at high schools district-wide.
- Construct, equip and improve playgrounds at early childhood centers, elementary schools and PreK-8 schools district-wide.