Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5's High School for Health Professions is planning a $17 million expansion.
School officials say the extra space will be needed once Orangeburg County’s three school districts are combined into one.
"We want to ensure we have the state-of-the-art building that meets the needs of training and developing these students for the jobs we have and in the future," Principal Angel Malone said Monday.
"We want to ensure we have the pipeline that feeds the need,” she said.
Malone discussed the plans during an “Equity and Education” forum held at the high school’s new facilities. The high school is a charter school sponsored by OCSD5.
Malone says the school is planning a 55,000-square-foot expansion of its campus off of Magnolia Street.
The expansion will include a gymnasium, educational/training auditorium, meeting space, clinical laboratory space, classrooms and collaborative classroom space.
The school will seek to offer not only classes in health sciences, but also in biomedical research and engineering. It also seeks to include courses in manufacturing and aerospace.
The expansion will be adjacent to the existing 17,000-square-foot school facility that opened three months ago. The school's campus sits on about 7 acres.
The high school's maximum capacity is 400 students. It has about 372 students enrolled.
The school anticipates needing a facility to house 800 students once consolidation is complete, Malone said.
State lawmakers passed a bill consolidating Orangeburg County’s three school districts into one earlier this year. It was vetoed, but local lawmakers are expected to try again.
The High School for Health Professions hopes to break ground for the expansion in January 2018, with construction projected to begin in April 2018. It hopes to move into the building by the fall of 2018.
The project developer is Columbia-based Osmium Development Group and the project architect is Columbia-based LS3P Associates.
The plan is to fund the project with private and public money, although the details are still being worked out.
Malone says the existing school can be repurposed to serve as a training/community facility. It will be called the “Academy of Teaching and Learning,” with the primary purpose of training teachers and principals how to innovate and serve rural and low-performing schools and districts.
The academy is expected to begin in the summer of 2018.
During the forum, state Rep. Rita Allison said everyone needs to pull in the right direction to make sure all children in the state get an adequate education. Allison, R-Lyman, is chair of the House Education and Public Works Committee.
"Unfortunately, sometimes we think about it in silos. We fund it in silos," she said. "That is not always the best way because everything touches each other."
Allison said the I-95 corridor, which has been called the "Corridor of Shame" because of its lack of resources, is an example of a part of the state that needs complete rehabilitation, starting with education.
"It needs the health community, it needs higher education, it needs the business community, it needs all of them coming together to help these young people in schools to give them what they need," Allison said. "A good quality teacher, a good quality administrator to help them to get the education they need and so well deserve."
Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman, said the High School for Health Professions is an example of what can be done in the state for education.
"Regardless of where you are located in this state, we can do it," he said.
Bud Ferillo, producer and director of the "Corridor of Shame" documentary, says the state’s constitution should guarantee all students a high-quality education.
"That has not yet happened," he said. "We are stuck with the Supreme Court's 1998 interpretation of our constitution with minimally adequate education."
Ferillo said the wording is not conducive to attracting more teachers to the state, which is seeing a 7,500-teacher shortage.
"I think they should be seeking and leaning for a high-quality education," he said. "I think we deserve more than that in this state."
Ferillo praised the high school for the work it has done, He said it shows, “poor children in a poor districts can learn and can also excel."
"I commend you what you have achieved," he said. "It is proof positive that under the most challenging of circumstances, extraordinary progress can be made."