The trees have been cleared, the ground is being leveled and the ceremonial dirt has been shoveled -- construction is officially underway at the site for May River High School in Bluffton.
The Beaufort County School District broke ground Thursday on the school that will serve students in grades nine through 12 starting with the 2016-17 school year. The building in the New Riverside area is to become the home of the Sharks and about 1,000 students.
The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by district officials, school board members and Bluffton Town Council members.
"This is an exciting time for us and the district," school board Chairman Bill Evans said. "We don't often get to open new schools, except in Bluffton, it seems."
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The school was designed by architect Hite Associates and is being built by contractor Thompson Turner Construction.
Ground clearing began just two weeks ago, Thompson Turner operations manager Chris Poe said. Much work remains, he said, but the start has been quick and smooth.
The school's $65 million budget -- paid for by money the district is allowed to borrow -- is about $15 million more than originally anticipated. A majority of those expenses come from additional ground and preparation work on site, superintendent Jeff Moss has said.
"I'm just thankful there were more pine trees on this site than live oaks," Moss joked. "But it is very exciting to be able to start from the ground up with a new institution."
The building will have three distinct areas, architect Jimmy Hite said. The center will be the academic core, with classrooms and the media center. One wing will have the gym and athletic facilities, while the other will house the arts facilities and auditorium, he said.
A career and technical-education center will be behind the main building.
The school's newly selected colors -- royal blue, black and silver -- will be incorporated into the building's design where possible.
The Board of Education voted last year to move forward with the high school, as well as a new school in greater Bluffton to accommodate students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
Hite Associates and Thompson Turner also were selected to construct and design River Ridge Academy, near the intersection of S.C. 170 and Bluffton Parkway. Construction on the $25 million school began in June, and it is expected to open by August 2015.
The district owns 200 acres at the high school site -- enough room to add an elementary and middle school to the campus, Moss hinted.
"It's very likely this could be a prekindergarten-through-12th-grade campus in another five years," he said. "But when you think about how many students will come through this facility over the next 50 years, it's amazing."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
- New Bluffton high school gets name, mascot and colors, October 21, 2014
- Cost estimate for new Bluffton high school grows by $18M, September 3, 2014
- School district's unexpected growth has classrooms, buses bursting at seams, September 13, 2014
- Beaufort teacher's drone monitors construction of new Bluffton school, October 23, 2014
- School district breaks ground on new Bluffton elementary school, June 3, 2014
- School board decides to build two new schools in Bluffton, October 1, 2013