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System starts planning for new RES

POSTED: February 27, 2014 8:15 p.m.

The Effingham County Board of Education has taken the first step toward building a new Rincon Elementary School.

The school board approved a resolution at last week’s meeting to phase out the current RES, a measure required to secure state funding for school construction.

The new Rincon Elementary will be built on a 41-acre site the school system owns on Fort Howard Road, across from the Dasher’s Landing subdivision.

“This is a long time away, though,” cautioned Slade Helmly, the school system’s executive director of administrative services.

Helmly added that, if he “tried to guess” a timetable, the new RES is at least five years down the road. The school district’s growth has slowed from a few years ago, when Effingham County schools were adding approximately 400 new students a year.

“If we get back to that” level of growth, Superintendent Randy Shearouse said, “(construction) could happen sooner. But it’s going to take you two years to build it.”

Along with the district’s future enrollment, the other variable is funding. The construction costs will be paid with a to-be-determined combination of local and state dollars.

“We have to come up with a cool 12 to 15 million bucks, so we’re working toward that, too,” Helmly said.

Rincon Elementary was built in its current spot, off Highway 21 between 4th and 5th streets, in 1962. A number of renovations have been made through the years, so “there are about six or seven different construction ages there,” Helmly said.

But school officials don’t want that trend to continue. They see building a new RES as a better option than continuing to pour money into the aging campus.

“It would be a lot to have to re-do, and that’s what the state looks at,” Shearouse said. “They look at, is it worth fixing or not?”

Committing to replace Rincon Elementary is part of the five-year facilities plan the school system provides to the state. The data within that plan, used to determine the amount of state funding school districts earn, is updated twice a year.

“This phasing-out of Rincon is part of that plan because it reduces the number of elementary units that are on the books, and it will put us closer to earning state funding for elementary schools,” Helmly said.

Helmly described the Fort Howard Road property as a “fantastic location” for the new RES, in part because utility infrastructure is already in place. The electricity is in front of the site and the water and sewage are within a tenth of a mile, he said.

Also, the 41-acre property is large enough to accommodate the addition of a middle school campus, if the need arises. In fact, school officials envisioned it as a K-8 site when the property was purchased about six years ago.

“Since then the needs have changed, and we built Effingham Middle School a little bit larger to accommodate the middle school growth,” Helmly said.

“We thought that we would have the needs before now,” Shearouse said, “but that hasn’t come to fruition — which has helped us in a way because it helped us save money, but then we’re not having the growth that we once thought.”

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