Bluffton panel favors plan to annex Davis Road school site

dburley@islandpacket.comDecember 18, 2013 

If a Bluffton planning panel's reaction is any indication, the Beaufort County School District can expect the town to annex the site of a new elementary school into its borders.

Planning commission members reacted warmly Wednesday night to the district's request that the town annex the 52-plus acre site on Davis Road north of Bluffton Parkway.

"From a developer's standpoint, I think it's a great location," commission chairman Thomas Viljac said. "It's a project that should move forward."

The densely wooded property is part of unincorporated Beaufort County. School district and town officials said annexing the site makes sense because the school will primarily serve nearby Bluffton students.

"It's practically surrounded by the town of Bluffton, so let's have some continuity," town planner Shawn Leininger said.

Annexation would also place the property under the same fire and police protection districts as other Bluffton schools -- a boost for public safety, said Phyllis White, the district's chief operational services officer. "It's just a practical decision," she said.

The school board is expected to vote Jan. 7 to formally request the annexation.

If passed, the planning commission and Town Council will vote at a public hearing Jan. 22.

"We're doing the preliminary work here so we can keep to our tight (construction) schedule," White said.

The school is one of two planned for the town to ease classroom overcrowding.

The elementary school will be one-story and house about 1,400 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Plans for the property include grass playing fields, an area for basketball and kickball and possibly a track.

The project is expected to cost $23,458,342. The school has $25 million available from a February bond issue.

A second Bluffton school -- a high school in the New Riverside area -- will have a capacity of 1,800 students. Its projected cost is $42 million. It will be paid for with money the district is allowed to borrow without holding a referendum.

White said the district will accept contracting bids for both schools in March and begin construction soon after.

The district hopes to open the schools by August 2015.

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