Spartanburg District Five Superintendent Randall Gary said the school system has seen strong growth and the trend is expected to continue.
District Five, the fastest growing school district in the county, has 9,738 students. That’s about 700 more students than last year and almost 1,000 more students than in 2019.
“We expect to have around 11,000 students by 2026,” Gary said.
The school system is asking voters to approve a November 2 bond referendum that will see the district incur $ 295 million in debt to complete several growth readiness projects. If the referendum passes, voters will not pay a tax increase. The money will allow the district to construct three new school buildings and renovate four more in anticipation of this growth.
What’s in the referendum?
The district’s growth management plan includes the construction of a new school for Wellford Academy, the construction of a new elementary school and the construction of a new middle school. The district is reportedly renovating and building additions for Byrnes High School, Beech Springs Intermediate, Berry Shoals Intermediate and Reidville Elementary.
The growth plan also includes a restructuring of the school system, which would include cutting their middle schools, converting Beech Springs to a middle school, and Berry Shoals to an elementary school.
Gary said it was the best time for them to move the referendum.
“Now is a great time to do it for a couple of reasons, I think the stars are aligned,” Gary said. “We are seeing historic growth in our district, with 700 students enrolled over the summer. Second, interest rates are at historically low levels. “
Residents are voting on whether to allow the school district to take on the $ 295 million debt to complete the projects. If the referendum passes, the school plans to pay off the debt over the next 25 years.
“We have current debt outstanding that we are paying off, and that debt will be gone in June 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2028,” Gary said.
The district will then be able to use its existing funds to pay principal and interest on the $ 295 million debt.
Growing the district will also help fund projects – the more taxable property there is in the district, the more tax money the district can receive at its current mileage rate.
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“Our district continues to grow in our assessed taxable property,” Gary said. “As our estimated worth, which is the total value of not only schools but our community, increases, the value of a mil, the amount of money it generates, increases.”
What’s at stake
If the referendum fails, 10 of the 12 schools in the district, including Byrnes High School and all middle and middle schools in the school system, are expected to be at full capacity or overcapacity by the 2024-25 school year. These schools should use laptops to have enough classrooms for the number of students they should have that year.
A later start of projects due to a failed referendum would also increase the cost, Gary said. This bond referendum does not include a tax increase, but if it fails, the next one could.
“Every year that we don’t do it, it’s going to cost more to do it. Right now, according to our most recent data available to us, the inflation rates are 5.7%. If we wait a year to start this process, it will only cost more, ”Gary said.
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Voting yes in the referendum will enable modern schools that are large enough for the intended student body and have up-to-date equipment that can meet the educational needs of these students.
“Whether it’s technology, open spaces, collaborative spaces, creative spaces, these kinds of things give us the opportunity to make sure we’re delivering these programs and having the best facilities. to deliver these programs so that we don’t have to meet our curriculum and instruction at our facility, ”Gary said.
The referendum received the support of OneSpartanburg.
“Education and economic development go hand in hand and when you invest in your education it not only helps your students, but it also contributes to the growth of our economic development,” said John Kimbrell, Director of Business Affairs for OneSpartanburg Inc ..
The district will hold a public information session on the referendum at Byrnes High School (150 E. Main St. in Duncan) on Tuesday, October 26 at 6 p.m.
Samantha Swann covers Spartanburg County K-12 schools and colleges and the food scene in downtown and beyond. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina Upstate and Greenville Technical College. Contact her at [email protected]