-

School board hears facility options

The Jasper County School District took steps toward developing its own CATE (Career and Technical Education) program and facility in February when it hired MB Khan, which analyzed current facilities owned by the district and looked to see if a facility would be a good fit for a CATE program.

At the April 10 school board meeting, Bill Cram, executive vice president of MB Khan, presented the results of the analysis.

MB Khan looked at four facilities as potential homes for a CATE program: the current ACE building, the Bees Creek property, the Ridgeland Campus school and the old Jasper County High School building.

Factors for evaluation of each property were location, size and cost for renovations.

The most cost-effective building for a Jasper CATE facility would be to buy out the current ACE facility once the agreement with Beaufort County is up at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

“The building is already set up as a CATE facility and is well maintained,” said Cram. “The negative side to it, is it would not reduce travel time to and from the facility.”

The school board expressed interest in a facility located in Ridgeland, close to the Ridgeland campus to reduce travel time and centralize the education in the county. But the other three potential facilities — Bees Creek, Jasper County High School and the Ridgeland Campus — all would need to undergo relatively extensive expansions and renovations to be able to accommodate the CATE courses and programs.

Another option to explore would be to construct a CATE facility on a new piece of land — which is possible. But constructing a new facility would be difficult and expensive, Cram said. CATE facilities require large amounts of land for safety purposes and for some of the environmental courses, such as animal husbandry and horticulture courses. If the board were to construct a new facility, the district would have to secure and purchase land, buy materials and build the program, supply it with equipment for CATE courses, and then staff the school.

If the district were to simply buy out ACE, the district would save money on equipment costs, building costs, and could most likely keep the same teachers and ACE administration.

The board was not pleased with the idea of simply buying out the ACE building and instructed MB Khan to explore purchasing land and developing a new CATE facility.

MB Khan also presented information about the athletic facilities for the high school — particularly the gym — after a push led by board member Priscilla Green.

According to the SCHSL, third-round playoff basketball games cannot be hosted at sites that do not seat a minimum of 1,500 people.

This rule has caused the boys basketball team to travel to Estill High School the past three seasons for a third-round playoff game.

MB Khan’s investigation into the shortcomings of the RHHS gym revealed only 1,404 people can safely sit in the gym according to the fire marshal. The gym could potentially fit more people with different bleachers, but the fire marshal will only zone it for 1,404 due to the exits available, Cram said.

The gym has five exits: two double-doored exits on the visiting baseline, two single-door exits on each sideline, and one single-door exit on the home baseline.

For the gym to safely seat 1,500 people, the exits need to be expanded and the travel distance to the outside of the building needs shortened.

“The simple way to accommodate that would be to expand the gym,” said Cram. “The simple way to expand the gym is to push out the back wall where the bleachers are and expand outward, which is possible to do.”

Cram didn’t provide estimated costs for a possible expansion.

The board passed a motion allowing MB Khan to send out an RFQ to find an architect to examine and develop plans for expansion. The RFQ is required to be out for a minimum of 60 days. Then MB Khan will present applicants to the board and the board can choose whether or not to move forward with plans for expansion.

When asked if the gym expansion could be completed before school starts again in the fall, Cram said, “Oh God, no. Definitely not.”

Comments