ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA)–Anderson School District One now has two new middle schools following more than two years of construction.
The new construction to Wren and Palmetto Middle Schools were funded primarily with a 2019 bond referendum, along with some local option sales tax and general fund revenues.
“The process started in April of 2019. Our voters voted overwhelmingly for a $109 million bond referendum… a portion of that paid for the two middle schools,” said Superintendent Robbie Binnicker, Anderson School District One. “We were pushing dirt the next day. At this point, Palmetto Middle School is just about completely finished and Wren Middle is finished with phase one and phase two.”
Binnicker said phase three at Wren Middle, which is the fine arts wing, will be complete in February.
“At Palmetto Middle, the only thing left is just the completion of the bus loop and the basketball parking lot, as well as the practice field. The practice field is complete, but there’s no grass on it yet,” Binnicker said.
Both schools were built in the early 1950’s.
“They were the original high schools for both Wren and Palmetto. And quite frankly, their useful life had been exhausted. There were lots of HVAC issues, lots of roofing issues, and it was going to take a lot of money to bring those schools up to modern day standards. In facts, it was going to cost us more to renovate those two schools, than it would be to actually build new schools,” Binnicker said.
Both schools have one wing that was added on about 12 years ago. Those wings still remain as part of the school’s new design. Other than the mentioned wings, the schools are now both brand new, and includes new gyms, libraries, cafeterias, and new classrooms. One teacher said last year, some teachers didn’t have their own classrooms due to construction.
“Some teachers have had to share spaces. Last year, when I had to break up my classroom, we would share a space with another teacher. It would be kind of chaotic, and just confusing sometimes for the kids. So this is just much better,” said Jill Wilson, ESOL Teacher at Palmetto Middle School.
“We built those two schools actually on top of the existing school, while students were still going to school,” Binnicker said.
Each school is filled with new security systems, practice fields, new technology, and several collaborative spaces.
“Really designed around the collaboration process, the teaming concept that middle schools undergo. And so, there are a lot of spaces in the building that are specifically designed for that middle school concept. The learning stairs, where teachers can bring in a number of classes and teach them altogether,” Binnicker said. “You’ll see a lot of collaborative spaces where small groups of students are able to work together in order to solve educational problems.”
The schools are also larger in size, and will hold 1,000 students verses the previous 800 students.
“We are a very fast-growing area. Our district is growing very quickly, and the building was built in mind that we’re going to have some growth,” Binnicker said.
“Every teacher is in their new space. So we’re really excited to test drive this stuff for the first time,” said Jason MccAuley, Principal at Palmetto Middle School. “I think this year is the year of possibility. Coming off of a very different and difficult year last year, this year, in a lot of the things that we are doing, is an opportunity to reset.”
Many are now happy to have their new home.
“I think this year is going to be especially great, since we made it through 2020. And this is a brand new school year. The whole building is ready to go and we won’t have any of the construction mess. So now, the only construction is going to be the construction going on with the kids and their learning,” Wilson said.
Binnicker also said Palmetto and Wren High Schools received major renovations. Both Palmetto and Wren High Schools received cosmetics updates, including to its HVAC systems. ADA Compliance issues were also solved at the two high schools. Binnicker said Wren and Palmetto Elementary Schools now have new HVAC systems and fire alarm systems, as well.