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Denmark Elementary (copy)

Several classrooms at Denmark-Olar Elementary School were closed due to severe water damage to the ceilings and floors. Voters have approved new facilities for the district.

The day will soon come when Bamberg School District Two students in Denmark won’t be learning in an environment where water drips into buckets when it rains. They won’t be playing in a gym where puddles form on the floor after rain showers and the ancient bleachers are permanently frozen in an open position.

School officials won’t have to search across the country for parts to patch up an antique boiler to keep the schools warm in the winter.

Bamberg 2 had been looking at ways to provide students with better schools for a number of years when approval to construct new facilities finally came from voters in November’s general election.

Almost three-fourths of the voters approved a plan to borrow $38 million for a new school complex to replace the Denmark-Olar elementary and middle schools that were built in 1954 and 1957, respectively. The plan will also completely renovate the high school.

The district is already moving forward with the beginning stages of the project, Superintendent Dr. Thelma Sojourner says. Thompson Turner Construction of Sumter has been hired and is working with Stevens and Wilkinson Architects of Columbia with the paperwork to get things moving, she said.

Sojourner reported earlier that students in the lower grades were struggling to succeed in an environment that doesn’t even offer them enough to get by.

Students and teachers currently spend every day in classrooms that lack adequate technology, where problems with space, heating and cooling and leaking roofs are chronic, she said. In addition, technology and online testing is especially poor in the elementary school, and security isn’t what it should be, Sojourner has said.

The plan will combine all three schools into one Pre-K-12 school structure on the property where the high school is located now. The new elementary and middle schools will be connected to the high school, giving it the appearance of one building. A kitchen and cafeteria will be located between the high school and the lower schools.

In addition, a new athletic stadium seating 1,500 people will be constructed at the site.

“We’re looking forward with great anticipation ... for our children,” Sojourner said previously. “This is not about me. It’s for my children and future generations.”

Sojourner projected that the new facility will open in the fall of 2019 or the spring of 2020.

Construction is a long process, she said.

Completing the design work will probably take about six months, and getting approvals needed from the state another two months, she said. Hopefully, construction will begin in the fall of 2017, Sojourner has said. It will probably take about 18 months to complete the elementary facility and another six months to update the high school, she said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a loan for the construction and renovations last fall at a below-market interest rate of 2.75 percent. It will be repaid over a 40-year period.

The increase in taxes is projected to be 40 mils. It will increase slightly in 2017 and 2018 while the new school is under construction. The full impact will not come until 2019, when taxes on an owner-occupied house valued at $25,000 will go up by $40 a year.

Taxes on an owner-occupied house valued at $50,000 will go up by $80, and one valued at $75,000 will increase $120.

Contact the writer: dlinder-altman@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5529. 

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