New arts, career centers proposed as part of Chester Co. Schools’ bond referendum

Plans to discuss potential school upgrades in Chester County

CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - In just over two months voters in Chester County will decide whether to pass a 116-million dollar bond referendum to bring upgrades, renovations and new additions to schools across the district.

The referendum will be a focus of Monday night’s School Board of Trustees meeting when trustees and the community get a first look at some more of the proposed plans, including a new arts center.

“We have no place right now for our students to put on a full-blown play or musical,” said Board Chairwoman Dr. Anne Collins. “We have some concert stages at Chester Middle School and Great Falls Middle School, but nothing in the Lewisville area.”

Dr. Collins believes a proposed 1,000 seat, 28,000+ square foot arts center would be a game changer for the district.

“We desperately need that because we need all three of the ‘A’s.’. We need athletics, we need academics, and we need the arts.”

Renderings for the proposed upgrades at Great Falls and Lewisville High School, as well as a new Chester High School have been released. Tonight board members will see the renderings for the proposed $12 million arts center and a new career center.

“These are works in progress as we hear from teachers, administrators, community members-- they can be tweaked.”

At the center of talks is cost and taxpayer impact. For example, right now a Chester County homeowner with a $100,000 home wouldn’t see change in taxes in Year 1. Taxes go up about $92 dollars for the year in Year 2. The district currently shows an increase through 2024, but says the increase will depend on the amount of work done each year. Collins says it’s also possible they wouldn’t need to spend the full $116 million.

Estimates for referendum tax payer impact
Estimates for referendum tax payer impact (Source: Chester County Schools)

“Money, of course, it’s always a concern for people, and I understand I’m a taxpayer,” said Dr. Collins. “But we have to look at what we are investing in our future, that’s why I say we need to look forward and not back.”

The district says the bond also calls for new security systems at all of the schools being upgraded.

The last time Chester County voters passed a school bond referendum was in the mid-1990s. Last year voters narrowly shot down a $38 million dollar school bond and some voters had said the board was not transparent in their plans. Dr. Collins tells says in light of that they’ve stressed transparency and all of these proposed plans have been discussed in the open board meetings and are online here.

Monday night’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. at district headquarters. The vote is scheduled for February 4, 2020.

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