GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – The Upstate is growing rapidly, and Greenville County Schools is working to get ahead of it by building a new elementary school.

J.L. Mann High School’s Athletic Complex will soon house a two-story elementary school, with an environmental focus.

“The school is still in the design phase, but it will be a two-story elementary school and nicely situated on that site where the old JL Mann used to be,” said Scott Carlin, Executive Director of Facilities for Greenville County School.

“It is currently JL Mann’s Athlete’s site. It used to house JL High School, which has in recent years been demolished,” he said.

The school is being designed for an initial capacity of 750 students but district leaders said the school will not open at full capacity.

“We’ll be phasing in the school with a certain amount of grade levels over the first couple of years, but the school will be designed for that 750 student capacity,” Carlin said.

“Well, I’d rather it be an elementary school than anything else. So, that’s good,” said nearby resident Kathy Swilley.

Carlin said the district is building the school to get ahead of growth.

“The intent of the school is to provide relief because of the growth that I think everybody who lives in Greenville County is aware is in the progress of coming–it’s going to continue,” Carlin said. “Fortunately for Greenville County, we’ve got a pretty aggressive planning program to make sure that as we study growth, and what’s going on in the area, we try to get ahead. Not too far ahead, but slightly ahead of where the growth is coming to make sure we provide that capacity, and we don’t get into a situation to where other school districts have gotten into from time to time.”

Greenville County school district leaders said the new school will primarily bring relief to Buena Vista, Pelham Road, Mauldin, and Sara Collins Elementary Schools.

“We know that the growth is coming. We’re seeing the growth, and again this new elementary school is to make sure that we don’t get into that oversized capacity at any of those other four elementary schools,” Carlin said.

Some parents agree that the new school is needed.

“I’ve got two who’ve been in elementary school and one going next year, and I see the teachers and all the faculty and staff, they’re all trying to do the best they can with the room they have,” said parent Clint Bryant.

Swilley’s grandkids live near Sara Collins Elementary School, and they hope to stay at their current school.

“They’re just worried about where they’re going to split it up–to split up the kids that have been there for a few years. So, that’s a concern for my daughter,” Swilley said.

District spokesperson Tim Waller told 7News that it’s far too early to say which students will attend.

“Our planning and demographics department is still looking at what that mix will be, of how we will–how we will in field the school, with that balance of people coming from the schools, and they’re still determining how the schools will be notified–when they’ll be notified because they’re not exactly sure how, what ratio is going to come from the schools, but that’s something that they’re working on right now,” Carlin said.

Some said traffic could be a concern.

“Where they’re going to be coming in, is going to be bad because they’ve got two other schools–JL Mann and then they’ve got St. Joseph, so the traffic on Ridge Road, I’ve avoided it at school times. So, if they can work out a traffic situation, that will be a good thing,” Swilley said.

“You’re in between two congested road areas with Mauldin Road and Laurens there, any improvements you can make for safety and to help keep things moving and not get jammed as much, is definitely going to be a good idea,” Bryant said.

District leaders said they have a plan that could help traffic.

“We’ll be bringing our traffic for the school in off of Ridge Road, and as you can see we’ll provide a very generous traffic lane,” Carlin said. “We’re going to be able to stack a lot of vehicles in on the campus and not out on the main road,” he said.

The site plan is still in its early stages.

New elementary school’s site plan rendering. Greenville County School leaders said the site plan is in preliminary stage. (From: Greenville Co. Schools)

“We are still in the design phase, and we are working with our regulatory and utilities partners right now to continue to design the site as well as the school,” Carlin said.

Bryant said he’s happy the new school is in the works, and glad the district is thinking ahead.

“I think if they can get ahead of this population boom that we’re having right now, it’s going to be a great move,” Bryant said. If you’re not getting ahead of the growth that is coming, it’s not slowing down, it’s not stopping. So, we don’t want to find ourselves in a situation with very overcrowded schools and very crowded roads, then yeah we have to be looking at all options at this point.”

The district hopes to break ground on the new school sometime this fall to open in August 2024.

Carlin also said the athletic complex will continue to serve the high school. He said they will make some adjustments like moving the softball field.

“We’re having to make some adjustments to the site based on the requirements to bring the new drive in off of Ridge Road,” Carlin explained. “There are going to be a couple of practice fields made available as part of the construction, and we will phase the construction as such, where they will continue to be able to use the site for their athletic programs while we’re building the school.”

Carlin said the name of the school has not been decided, and likely won’t be for some time.

The project’s budget is just over $50 million.