By Al Dozier

The new elementary school for Lexington-Richland District 5 is on track for completion in May of 2021 despite extensive rain delays during construction, according to a presentation at the June 15 board meeting.

Construction on the second-floor steel project and deck is now under way. Roofing and painting are ahead of schedule, according to officials with Quackenbush Architects.

The 105,000-square foot school identified as “Elementary School 13” will be located on Amicks Ferry Road in Chapin and will serve 750 students. Cost of the project is estimated at a maximum of $22.8 million, but officials say it is currently under budget.

Irmo Middle School Principal Cassy Paschal has been named principal of the new school, which is expected to open in the fall of 2021.

Board member Ed White said some questions remain about construction issues, including possible support problems with soil composition around the building’s roadways and curbs. Many of those questions were raised by board member Ken Loveless, who sent a letter to the district’s superintendent seeking answers but said he has not received a response.

Board Chairman Michael Cates said the district can respond to the questions through the service providers, but Monday’s board meeting was not the appropriate time.

During the presentation board member Jan Hammond asked about safety issues related to traffic coming in and out of the site. Safety problems near the heavily travelled Amicks Ferry Road have been raised frequently by residents in the area.

Quackenbush officials said traffic flow problems are being addressed and will likely include a new traffic signal in the area.

In other action, board members expressed appreciation for the successful graduation ceremonies performed despite the coronavirus safeguards that were put in place.

“I’ve heard numerous compliments about our graduation,” said board member Beth Hutchison.

She called for a round of applause for Superintendent Christina Melton and her staff.

The district held in-person, outdoor graduation ceremonies implementing social distancing and other health measures for graduates and their guests at the district’s three high school football stadiums during the first week in June.

During a discussion of the proposed General Fund Budget for the 2020-2021 School Year, the board was advised meal prices will go up during 2021. Lunch prices will go up from $2.75 to $2.90. Breakfast prices will go up from $1.40 to $1.50.

The budget proposal anticipates expenditures of $198,883,473, while revenues are expected to total $197,861,748.

Because of the uncertainty about state funding, the district has implemented a spending freeze. A proposed STEP increase will be retroactive when final decisions are reached on the budget. Officials expect the district to remain in a suitable financial situation but a lot of issues remain unresolved as the state copes with coronavirus pandemic. The State Department of Education is expected to address shortfalls and future expenses.

The board approved a proposal that discontinues for one year the district’s foreign student exchange program as a safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic.

The board also approved a revised policy on homebound instruction for sick or disabled students.