The Effingham County Board of Education plans to decide by the end of March on the design for the new Rincon Elementary School.
That timetable will keep the school system on target to start building the new RES in January 2016 and open it in August 2017, according to Slade Helmly, executive director of administrative services.
“We need to be able to turn dirt in January,” Helmly said. “I would suggest making a decision within the next month.”
The new Rincon Elementary will be built on 41 acres the school system owns on Fort Howard Road, across from the Dasher’s Landing subdivision. The current RES was built in 1962 and has undergone several renovations through the years.
The K-5 school will be built to house 1,000 students and be paid for entirely with local funds. Under Georgia’s funding formula, Effingham County does not qualify for state money for a new elementary school because it is deemed to be “building ahead of an established need.”
Helmly and Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse recently visited other school districts to look at possible designs. Helmly presented three possible options at the school board’s meeting Thursday.
One is to replicate the same design that was used for other elementary schools in the Effingham County School System, most recently Blandford Elementary. Blandford has a one-story, “wagon wheel” design, with hallways for each grade level branching out from a commons area.
“Folks (at Blandford) are happy with that design,” Shearouse said.
Another model Helmly presented was Evans Elementary School in Columbia County. Evans Elementary is the same size as the “Blandford model” for the new Rincon Elementary — 115,200 square feet — but is two stories instead of one.
The two models also are similar in cost, according to the architect’s estimates Helmly presented to the board — $14.4 million for the Blandford model and $14.9 million for the Evans Elementary model.
A third model shown to the board was a school in Metter that houses Pre-K–eighth grade. Adding the middle school grades would expand the school to 208,000 square feet — roughly the size of Effingham County High School — and the price tag to $26 million, Helmly said.
The board has previously discussed the possibility of building an elementary school and a middle school on the Fort Howard Road property. Shearouse and Helmly both stated that the 41-acre site likely isn’t large enough to accommodate two schools.
“It gets really tight with two schools,” Helmly said.
“We don’t really have the immediate need for another middle school at this time,” Shearouse said. “There is some additional land around that property, so if you ever wanted to think about building two, an additional land purchase could always be a possible option there.”
Board members were receptive to the Evans Elementary design, but expressed a desire to see the school in-person. The board plans to visit Columbia County next month.
“If I’m going to make a decision, I’ve got to see something,” board member Beth Helmly said.
Once the current Rincon Elementary is vacated, Shearouse said, the school system will look to sell the building. City of Rincon officials plan to look at the facility, but the search for a buyer will be “wide open,” he said.