Effingham County school officials hope students will be attending a new Rincon Elementary School in August 2017.
The Effingham County Board of Education approved a timetable to design, build and move into a new RES during a facilities workshop attended by the five BoE members, incoming board member Robert Grant, Superintendent Randy Shearouse and Executive Director of Administrative Services Slade Helmly.
With a 5-0 vote, the school board gave Helmly and his staff the go-ahead to begin designing the new Rincon Elementary in January 2015. Building is slated to start in January 2016, allowing for 18 months of construction to have the school ready for the 2017-18 year.
Helmly anticipates the new Rincon Elementary will be between 120,000 and 140,000 square feet with the capacity to hold around 1,000 students. By comparison, the district’s newer schools were built for 750 students.
“We’ve built 102- to 105-thousand-square-foot buildings in 10 months before, so this is a very reasonable timeframe,” Helmly said.
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 school will cost $12.5 million to build, Helmly estimated, and will 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.
“We’re building ahead of when they say we have an established need,” Helmly explained. “Basically what you have to do is put portable classrooms out there and get really crowded before they show you having a need, and therefore the funds follow.”
The Effingham County School System generates revenue for school projects through a special purpose local option sales tax, which has a current balance of $6.75 million. The portion of SPLOST devoted to school construction and renovation accrues at $250,000 per month.
“Right now you basically have $7 million toward a new school, so you’re more than halfway there,” Helmly said to the school board. “You’re going to be able to move into a new school without owing anything on it, because you made the decision to approve $250,000 a month throughout the lifetime of SPLOST.”
Building the new Rincon Elementary entirely with local funds essentially will drain the current SPLOST, which runs through June 2017. The board of education voted unanimously to hold a March 2016 referendum for a new SPLOST that would begin when the present one ends.
If voters defeat a SPLOST, a school district must wait a year to place another one on the ballot. Should the referendum fail in 2016, the Effingham County School System will try again in March 2017, offering a second chance for voters to approve a new SPLOST prior to the current one expiring.
“If SPLOST doesn’t pass, then everything you do is completely changed. You don’t do anything,” school board Chairman Lamar Allen said.
“To get two shots at it is crucial,” added Vice Chair Troy Alford.
Prior to discussing the timeline for the new Rincon Elementary, the board of education approved petitioning the city of Rincon to annex the 41-acre property. The land is contiguous with Rincon’s city limits and the school district will be able to tap into the city’s water and sewer lines, Shearouse said.
Board member Beth Helmly pointed out it also would be a good move “probably PR-wise to say the Rincon school was in the Rincon city limits.”
During the workshop, school officials discussed other possible projects to address, including renovations to Effingham County High School and an addition to the Effingham College and Career Academy.
Specifics have not been identified for the ECHS renovation, Slade Helmly said, but it could be similar to the upgrades made to South Effingham Elementary this past summer. Approximately $2.5 million in state funding could be available for the project, he said.
The ECCA proposal is to build a two-story addition near the school’s transportation laboratories. No capital outlay funds from the state would be available, according to Helmly, because the school district rents the ECCA property as opposed to owning it.
“The school is telling us they need some larger lab spaces,” he said.
Timeline for a proposed new Rincon Elementary School:
• January 2015 — design begins
• January 2016 — construction starts
• August 2017 — school is ready