Seismic schools rebuilding, other projects underway with penny tax

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It's been almost a year since the penny sales tax for school building projects went into effect in Charleston County. Now several school construction projects are underway, including the rebuilding of five schools that can't withstand a strong earthquake and other schools that are old and need updates.

Charleston County School District leaders say Saint Andrews School of Math and Science is a place where students get a top notch education in not so top notch conditions.

"We saw things here that are safety hazards. We saw teachers making do in conditions that are not ideal," CCSD Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley said.

CCSD officials and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley toured the facility to see some of the problems, which the district says includes: traffic, parking, AC units and that nearly 40 percent of the students are in trailers.

It is one of 17 schools on the district's list to be rebuilt or renovated in a six-year time span, paid for with the penny sales tax.

Eventually the school district hopes the 60-year-old Saint Andrews will be rebuilt with state-of-the-art facilities, similar to those at the 2-year-old Oakland Elementary. The school boasts a modern design, smart boards, computer labs and safety and security measures.

Five schools that were deemed seismically unsafe were first on the list to be rebuilt. District leaders say the students are attending classes at temporary locations, and the rebuilding of Memminger, James Simmons and Sullivans Island Elementaries, and Buist and Charleston Progressive Academies are on schedule to be complete by 2013.

"We took some heat. We took some criticism, but I firmly believe that we made the right decision, and the school board backed the right decision to act on behalf of safety, children's safety, adult's safety, because we never want to put anybody in a building that potentially could be unsafe," McGinley said.

Saint Andrews will be demolished and rebuilt in the same spot in the South Windermere neighborhood of West Ashley. The district says the students will go to the old Oakland Elementary School building located about four miles away during construction.

The penny sales tax is in effect county wide and was projected to generate up to $520 million over six years.

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