A controversial proposal for a new school near Chapin was approved Monday night by the Lexington-Richland 5 School Board.
The 6-1 decision came despite a campaign by nearby homeowners against the $932,950 purchase of 24 acres at Amicks Ferry Road and Lake Tide Drive two miles south of town for the school. Superintendent Stephen Hefner called the site “outstanding.”
An elementary school with up to 750 students would transform a quiet peninsula on the north side of Lake Murray where scattered neighborhoods are surrounded by farms and forests, residents say.
Neighborhoods traditionally sprout around new schools in Lexington-Richland 5.
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Putting the school on Amicks Ferry would worsen traffic problems on a winding road that is the main route on the peninsula, opponents told the board.
“It is not a good place to build a school,” homeowner Karen Larabee said. “Sometimes the right thing to do is just say no.” She was among more than two dozen residents who made last-minute pleas for rejection.
The hostility led board member Jan Hammond, the dissenter, to express concern about “lack of public buy-in.”
More classrooms are vital to keep up with growth forecasts around Chapin and to relieve overcrowding at two nearby elementary schools, Hefner said.
No timetable is set for opening the school, making it likely the site will sit unused for a few years. Developing a plan for building is the next task for school officials.
Organizers of the effort to stop the purchase promise to remain on guard against what they consider overdevelopment in the area and to continue questioning school operations.
“It’s not that folks in Chapin don’t see the need for a new school,” said resident Mark Ebert. “But when you have this much concern in the community, why didn’t we slow the decision down?” He added: “We’ve learned some valuable lessons out of this (effort).”
School board chairman Robert Gantt said after the vote: “We know the public is passionate about selecting school sites. We are planning for the future, and this seems to be right.”
About 200 people were screened by metal detectors under the watch of a half-dozen Richland County deputies in order to attend the Monday session at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies in the Spring Hill area. The meeting occurred without problem.
Some residents were upset at the extra security after school officials received what they considered threats, with homeowner Michael Bloom describing it as “insulting.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483