Lexington School District three to ask voters borrow up to $90 million for renovations and new high
Batesburg-Leesville, SC - At the August 7th meeting of the Lexington County School District Three Board of Trustees, members voted unanimously to pursue a bond referendum in the November 2018 general election. If passed, the bond issue would allow the school district to borrow up to $90 million to fund renovations at the existing B-L Primary School facility and to build a brand-new B-L High School, in effect addressing the safety, student growth, and aging building issues that have concerned Board members for years.
The aforementioned needs were among a list of others identified in 2016 when the district commissioned a study of all of its buildings by retired architect Don Altman, who served as a consultant for Thompson Turner Construction Company. Mr. Altman and his team looked at the district’s educational philosophy, conducted faculty and staff interviews and inspected the district’s facilities to assess their architectural, mechanical/plumbing, electrical and civil states. Mr. Altman presented his results and gave recommendations to the Board of Trustees during its November 2016 meeting. Listed below are some of the findings noted by Mr. Altman for the existing B-L High School and B-L Primary School buildings. These two facilities were prioritized by Board members as needing the most urgent updates.
The priorities were as follows:
Batesburg-Leesville High School – The main building was constructed in 1975. The career education building was constructed in 1976. The gymnasium and football stadium were constructed in 1976. The band and music building was constructed in 1977, and the academic and guidance wing was constructed in 2002. The Fine Arts Center was occupied in 2000. Currently, the high school facilities that are now being used require the following needed improvements:
● Upgrade doors, hardware and windows
● Upgrade interior finishes
● Install new lab and classroom casework
● Add new faculty and visitor parking
● Upgrade stadium to include a new entrance, ticket booths, restrooms and concessions
● Secure the front entrance
In 2016, it was estimated to cost $52,719,257 to fund these renovations at B-L High School. Due to inflation, according to Thompson Turner Construction Company, that estimate would be higher now.
Batesburg-Leesville Primary School – The original building construction was completed in 1984. Two classroom additions were constructed in 1986. Four classroom additions were constructed in 1991, and the kindergarten wing was constructed in 2001.
Needed Improvements –
● Replace roofing and roof insulation system
● Replace HVAC system
● Upgrade all plumbing fixtures
● Install new LED lighting system
● Install new acoustical tile ceiling system
● Upgrade power for technology
● Enclose Media Center
● Upgrade existing restrooms and add new public, faculty and student restrooms
● Upgrade doors, hardware and windows
● Add new faculty and visitor parking
● Separate bus, car and service vehicles
● Add additional stacking lanes for pick up and drop off
● Add new playgrounds and playfields
● Consider second entrance to site for bus and service functions
● Relocate administrative offices to the main level
● Add new secure front entrance
Since the facility study was conducted, several of the improvements recommended by Mr. Altman were addressed and paid for through general obligation bonds issued by the Board of Trustees’ 8% borrowing debt capacity. During the February 14, 2017 meeting of the Lexington County School District Three Board of Trustees, the Board approved the first resolution approving the issuance of a general obligation bond through the South Carolina Association of Governmental Organizations (SCAGO) GO Program in the amount of $1.6 million. Renovations paid for with this money include new, secure entrances at B-L Primary, B-L Elementary and B-L Middle Schools and a new five-foot fence around the playground area of B-L Elementary School. In addition, the district put into place enhanced software and hardware at B-L Elementary and B-L Middle Schools that provided door card readers for staff and camera monitoring systems, therefore enhancing security on those campuses. The $1.6 million bonds were paid off in March of 2018.
During the February 13, 2018 meeting of the Lexington Three Board of Trustees, the Board approved a second resolution authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds in the amount of $3.06 million through the SC Association of Governmental Organizations (SCAGO) GO program. The bonds were issued under the Board’s 8% borrowing capacity. This money supplemented $1.16 million that the district also received from the State Board of Education to fund renovations identified in the school facility study. District officials are currently expending the sum of these funds to replace the roof and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system at B-L Middle School. These bonds will be paid off in March of 2019.
The district still estimates that it needs approximately $90 million to completely address the list of improvements, including safety concerns, that have been recommended for the existing B-L Primary School facility and in order to build a brand-new B-L High School. Under South Carolina law, Lexington County School District Three cannot borrow enough money to fund the construction and upgrades needed without the approval of the voters in the district. There are no other federal, state or local funds available to pay for these projects. The last time Lexington School District Three pursued a bond referendum was in 1997 when it sought funds to build the current B-L Middle School and Fine Arts Center facilities.
During its January 2018 meeting, the Lexington Three Board of Trustees unanimously voted to enter into a contract with Jumper Carter Sease Architects to explore design options for a renovated B-L Primary School and for a new B-L High School. The architectural firm presented its preliminary conceptual plans a few months later at the June 12th Board meeting.
The proposed plans included the following renovations/additions to the existing B-L Primary School facility. Please note these conceptual plans are subject to change as designs are finalized.
● New, larger media center
● New, larger cafeteria
● New administration area at the front of the school (with a designated space for the
● New, larger PE area
● Additional classrooms
● Additional bathrooms
● Additional office space
● A new playground area
● A redesigned drop-off loop for parents at the front of the school to aid in traffic flow off of
Summerland Avenue (this includes additional paved parking)
● A new, separate bus drop-off area behind the school to increase safety and efficiency
According to Joel Carter, who presented the plans in June of 2018 on behalf of Jumper Carter Sease Architects alongside Lauren Fabin, the proposed renovations for B-L Primary School would allow for the continued use of the new security entrance that was added by the district during the summer of 2017. In addition, the conceptual design also removes the long, covered breezeway that extends from the front of the school. In its place would be a covered walk area that would connect and run parallel to the front of the facility. The estimated cost for these renovations at B-L Primary School is projected to be around $17,966,146. Pending the outcome of the referendum in November, the first phase of renovations at B-L Primary School would start in June of 2019, with the final phase being completed by September of 2021.
The conceptual drawings that were presented for a new B-L High School allow for the proposed facility to be built facing Summerland Avenue in front of the existing B-L High School campus. Initially, the school would accommodate approximately 650 students; however, the prospective design of the new school would allow for growth up to 800 students. Highlights of the presented plan included:
● An Innovation Studio (This would serve as the school’s media center and a place for
student innovation and collaboration.)
● A gymnasium that would allow patrons to enter at the top of the bleachers and funnel
down to the court level
● A Hall of Fame lobby outside of the gymnasium
● An auxiliary gymnasium
● A lecture hall
● A semi-enclosed courtyard area for outdoor dining
● Upgrades to athletic facilities including, but not limited to, the softball area, the Panther
football stadium, and the baseball complex
● New practice fields
● New student parking lot
● New bus drop-off area
● New parent drop-off area
● New staff/visitor parking
(Please note these conceptual plans are subject to change as designs are finalized.)
As part of the conceptual plans, the existing Fine Arts Center would likely be renovated on the exterior to match the new B-L High School campus and would be updated on the inside with additional dressing rooms and bathrooms. A covered walk area would connect the Fine Arts Center to the main B-L High School building. The estimated cost to build a new B-L High School is $71,802,895. Pending the outcome of the referendum in November, construction on the new B-L High School would begin in June of 2019 and should be complete by August of 2022.