CCSD cancels vote on future of Stono Park Elementary

VIDEO: Renovate or rebuild? CCSD to vote on future of Stono Park Elementary

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District canceled a vote on whether to rebuild or renovate a more than 60-year-old elementary school in West Ashley.

The issue was pulled off of the agenda at a school board meeting Monday night, during which a vote had been expected to decide what to do with the facility.

Stono Park was built in the 1950s. Faculty, staff, and parents of students at the school say it is in desperate need of repair.

Originally there was a possibility of rebuilding the school. Now the board is looking at renovating, because there isn't enough money to complete all of the other school improvement projects.

In 2010, Charleston residents approved a school improvement referendum. It allowed a one-cent sales tax in Charleston County for six years to help raise money for the projects. Stono Park was one project of at least 30 to get the help.

News of a renovation in the future instead of a new school has some people upset and confused.

"Yeah I would be upset because I would want the best for my kids," said Jamie Wise, of West Ashley.

Stono Park's Principal, Michelle Simmons, said everyone at the school has been hoping for a brand new school after seeing others get that opportunity. Now that may not be an option if the board decides to move forward with renovating the school instead.

"A lot of people are passionate about Stono Park," Simmons said. "There's a lot of history, a lot of families have matriculated through children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles. A lot of people feel strongly and care deeply about what goes on at Stono Park."

The board is looking at a $6 million renovation of the school, and are hoping to request an additional $3 million to get all the work done. The plan would get rid of the eight trailers on campus and build a 13,5000 square foot extension wing for the school. The new wing would house a media center, physical education room and four classrooms.

"As you can imagine with a school that was built in the fifties there's some inevitable issues that we have and can't avoid them," Simmons said.

Some of those issues deal with the HVAC system. Simmons said during the warmer months the air conditioning is not ideal for students.

On top of that, there were termite issues in the trailers which caused them to be renovated last summer.

"It does look a little run down," said Audra Walters, of West Ashley. "The playground is very nice, but the building itself appears rundown on the outside."

The district says rebuilding the school would cost $26.2 million. The money would come from the improvement project funding that was raised.

By building a new school it wouldn't leave enough to support other school projects on the list. That's why the district audit and finance committee suggested renovating the school instead.

"It would allow all the remaining projects that had a direct impact on children in Charleston County to have some level of improvement," said Jeff Bowory, Director of Capital Programs in charge of keeping track of the money.

The board will now discuss Stono Park Elementary plans on March 14 and plans to vote on March 21.

Simmons is hoping the board members will change their mind regarding the renovation versus rebuilding issue. But if the board chooses to renovate, she said it would have to be an in depth renovation to fix the problems the school has.

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