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Charleston County revisits future plans for new high school in Awendaw

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 5:42 PM EDT
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AWENDAW, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District wants to turn a large plot of land between Awendaw and McClellanville into the next site for the area’s middle and high schools.

The complex, planned along N. Highway 17 and Jenkins Hill Rd., would be the first high school in the area in seven years since Lincoln High school in McClellanville closed.

“In my opinion, every community needs to have a school,” CCSD District 1 School Board Member Shirley Collenton said. “Since we no longer have the high school in the area, it’s really a ghost town because we no longer have a place with activities where the community can come together.”

CCSD Director of Planning and Real Estate Angela Barnette said the district is resubmitting the plan to Charleston County leaders which were first denied by councilmembers last year.

“With the advent of new growth in the area, there will be an opportunity to build a new cutting-edge facility to serve these students with a school build design that will better serve the students in the community,” Barnette said.

The 107-acre area would not only include the middle and high schools, but also have baseball and softball fields, a track and multipurpose areas for the community.

But the exact location of the district’s plan is still being debated.

“The location is wrong. It’s a terrible place to put a school,” said Joe Bowers, former CCSD school board member for the area.

The Town of Awendaw, along with Bowers, remain open to the idea of a new school but are still opposed to the current plot saying the spot is too far out along Highway 17 and lacks necessary resources.

“It’s not a viable option because it’s not compatible with the surrounding zoning. It does not have public water so they will have to put in a well,” Bowers said. “We always proposed something closer to Mount Pleasant.”

Eliot Middleton lives across the street from where the new complex is planned and has a daughter who currently commutes to Wando High School daily.

“I think one of the main things is the fact that the commute, early in the morning, kids have to travel so far to go to a much larger high school,” Middleton said.

He wants to see students return to a smaller, local school closer to the former Lincoln High where he graduated.

“Maybe a little closer in McClellanville, maybe even possibly at the old location where Lincoln High School was. I feel like if you can renovate what you have, you can save taxpayers’ money,” Middleton said. “If one can come that’s great. We just want to make it to where it’s the best feasible thing for all students in the area.”

The school plans were discussed in Charleston County’s Monday planning commission and will go before other committees and full council this summer.

Dickie Schweers, Charleston County Councilmember for the area released a statement:

Similar to Charleston County Council members, Charleston County School Board members are elected by the voters. Therefore, in deference to the school board’s status as elected officials with responsibility for public school students, I will likely vote to support their request.

However, I do not necessarily agree with the school board that the future number of local high school students in this rural area will ever reach the typically required threshold population to warrant a high school. Lincoln High School closed a few years back due to very low attendance which resulted in very high costs per student. I’m not certain how moving the school site a few miles down Highway 17 changes the available student population.

Although Wando High School is about 25 miles away, the drive down Highway 17 does not include a single traffic light. Furthermore, Wando High School is one of the highest performing schools in the state.

Full statement released by CCSD’s Director of Planning and Real Estate, Angela Barnette:

“Charleston County School District is re-submitting the original PD (Planned Development) presented to Charleston County Government back in February 2020 with only one addition. The addition to the PD is the removal of two structures on the property upon approval of the PD and closing transaction. The details provided about the school for the PD are only specific to size, use, and structures to assure compliance with the zoning specifications. Other details included in the PD must conform with the Charleston County Zoning and Land Development Regulations Ordinance and meet all criteria.

With the advent of new growth in the area, there will be an opportunity to build a new cutting-edge facility to serve these students with a school build design that will better serve the students in the community.

The Charleston County School Board welcomes the use of school facilities when school is not in session. Facilities can be rented through our Facility Use Program. CCSD also enters into reciprocal agreements with the municipalities throughout Charleston County to provide joint use for fields, gymnasiums, and other facilities to strengthen the communities in which they reside.”

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