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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Sep 25, 2013 - 9:20:14 AM

Potential DI school sites identified in Sloan's Daniel Island Co. proposal
By Elizabeth Bush
Sep 25, 2013 - 9:18:04 AM

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The Daniel Island Company identified four locations suitable for a new school on Daniel Island in a letter sent to the Berkeley County School District and depicted in the map above. The developer submitted the report in May in response to a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) by the district for a new middle school site. The district has consistently maintained they are considering sites both on and off Daniel Island and plan to present them to the community at the end of the month.

There are potentially four locations suitable for a new school on Daniel Island, based on a report sent to the Berkeley County School District by the Daniel Island Company last May. The developer submitted the report, recently obtained by The Daniel Island News, in response to a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) by the district for a new middle school site. The district has consistently maintained they are considering sites both on and off Daniel Island and plan to present them to the community at the end of the month.   
Two of the Daniel Island sites, one approximately 59 acres and the other 42 acres, are located on either side of I-526 near the island’s commercial district. The remaining locations are much smaller in size, 16 acres and 12 acres respectively, and both are located in the vicinity of the Greystar Apartments complex at the end of Seven Farms Drive.  
The proposed Daniel Island/Cainhoy school, part of a $198 million new construction and renovation effort funded through a countywide bond referendum, is planned to alleviate overcrowding at the Daniel Island School (DIS). According to student population figures provided by BCSD spokesperson Amy Kovach, enrollment at the school has climbed some 58 percent since the facility opened (from 566 students in 2006 to 1352 in 2013). The new school was originally intended to serve as a middle school, as stated on the referendum ballot last November, with DIS potentially converting to all elementary grades. A site for a new high school to serve the Daniel Island and Cainhoy areas has already been selected in an area off Clements Ferry Road and is expected to open in August of 2017.
In a letter (dated May 31, 2013) to district officials regarding their RFP for the new middle school, Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan expressed his belief that the island should remain a “K-8” community.  
“Daniel Island has been successfully developed as a true walk/ride to school community,” he stated. “…Having K-8 grades on Daniel Island is a community priority and something residents deserve.”
Sloan wrote in his letter that when DIS was in the planning stages, the Daniel Island Company presented the district with two options – the first was an elementary school site that was offered at $80,000 per acre, and the second was the same site with the provision that the school be designed as a two-story K-8.
“As an incentive for the school district, we committed that if the two-story K-8 option were selected, the land would be donated without monetary consideration,” he stated.  
The district chose the K-8 option, said Sloan, and DIS has become a “center piece of the Daniel Island community.”
“All documents, including the deed, speak to a K-8 school, and by accepting the land donation we believe the school district has made a commitment to have all these grades offered on the island,” Sloan continued in his letter.
According to the Berkeley County School District, a suitable middle school property would require some 28 to 32 acres to accommodate a building with a minimum of 116,000 square feet. The front door of the school would need to be located within a three-mile radius of Clements Ferry Road. Other necessities are adequate space for buses and cars, mechanical spaces for equipment, athletic fields for football, baseball and soccer, as well as tennis courts.  The site must also have the appropriate topography and adhere to all environmental/wetlands requirements as set forth by the state. In addition, it cannot be a in a flood zone due to the fact that it must be available for use as a hurricane/storm shelter.
“Unlike building a 2,500 square foot house, a school’s infrastructure is vastly more complex and rigidly monitored,” stated Kovach. “The new schools to be built must meet all legal obligatory requirements for the health and safety of students first.”
The two Daniel Island locations just north and south of I-526 could potentially be suitable for a new middle school, wrote Sloan, but the smaller two parcels would not meet the requirements. Sloan said he was hopeful that the district might consider building a new “neighborhood-friendly” elementary school on the island instead, as the required footprint would be much smaller, and converting the existing Daniel Island School to a middle school. Sloan expressed concerns in his RFP letter that the district may not be open to this idea.
“It appears the School District is seeking a site to match its program, as opposed to a program to match possible sites,” he stated. “…Two sites will fall short of the middle school acreage requirements stated in the RFP. The other two sites should work very well from a facility and programming standpoint, but are two of the most valuable pieces of property on the island due to interstate frontage premiums.”
“The smaller acreage requirements of an elementary school open up more opportunities for Daniel Island,” Sloan continued. “The smaller building program as well as smaller acreage demands should present significant cost saving opportunities for the School District. We are concerned that this scenario is not under study and would like a clarification.”
In a letter sent home to Daniel Island School families last week, Berkeley County Superintendant Rodney Thompson addressed some of the issues associated with Sloan’s statements.
“We are working with all land owners in the area, including The Daniel Island Company, to identify sites that will meet school building requirements and be approved by the State Board of Education.”
While stopping short of naming specific sites or grade configurations for a new facility, Thompson did mention that the district is considering a “Magnet School” option that could allow Daniel Island School to remain a “neighborhood K-8 school” while alleviating overcrowding and providing additional public resources to all Berkeley County children regardless of physical address.
“This is one creative approach,” Thompson wrote. “…If the idea does not seem palatable, we will explore other ideas.”
Sloan has been working as a representative of the landowner (Cainhoy Land and Timber) where the proposed new high school is to be built. He said the contract with the Berkeley County School District for that property allows for an additional site for a second school.
“The landowner has been briefed on the K-8 Magnet concept and is highly interested in seeing it studied,” Sloan added. “From the Daniel Island perspective, the K-8 Magnet concept presents a second option for families that attend the Daniel Island School. If both schools can be successful and have adequate capacity, perhaps this could be a viable solution that the entire community could get behind.”
The Berkeley County School District plans to unveil all school sites under consideration and answer questions at a community meeting to be held on September 30, at 5:30 pm, at the Daniel Island School and at 7:30 pm at Cainhoy Elementary/Middle School
“Neighborhood schools are a critically vital component to communities and it is our intention to do everything we can reasonably do within the legal and financial limits of our community to keep Daniel Island School a K-8 school while still providing for an alternative that will alleviate the unsafe, overcrowded conditions,” stated Thompson.
Sloan said the district still has not communicated with him about any of the sites or scenarios he presented in his May RFP response.
“Our response centered on a scenario where the existing school is re-purposed as a middle school and that a new elementary school be built on Daniel Island,” he added. “We suggested that the smaller scale elementary school combined with leveraging the existing assets of the current school would result in meaningful savings for the district. We have had no response from the district as to this proposal, but hope that a discussion is forthcoming.”
“We will discuss the Daniel Island Properties as well as all the other options on Monday night (September 30),” said Thompson. “We look forward to starting the process of seeking input from stakeholders and educating our board about all the potential locations over the next couple of months.”

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