District considers delay of opening Socastee Middle until next school year

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The new Myrtle Beach Middle School finished its final inspection on Tuesday, allowing students to start attending the new 200,000 square foot facility in mid-January, after winter break.

Director of Communication for Horry County Schools, Lisa Bourcier said there’s still a few final things to take care of before teachers can start loading their items into classrooms.

“We have a series of technology packages that need to be installed in the school, we have a kitchen that still needs to be prepared but we do have a very detailed schedule that principal, Janice Christy put together to assure for a smooth transition,” Bourcier said.

The Horry County School Board voted in 2015 for five brand new schools to be built, and the completion of the Myrtle Beach Middle School would make four out of the five completed.

Other schools that opened this year are: Ten Oaks Middle School, St. James Intermediate School, and Socastee Elementary school.

News 13 reached out to the builder, Robert Ferris, CEO of Firstfloor Energy Positive, to get details on the projected timeline for Socastee Middle School. While Ferris declined to speak on camera, he released the following statement:“Feedback has been tremendous for the first three schools and we are excited to get the remaining students into their new buildings so they can begin to experience this amazing new learning environment. Socastee Middle School is on track to be completed the middle of February.”

However, district officials say there’s a possibility students won’t start in the new Socastee Middle School until next school year.

“It would be coming up on Spring Break and then after Spring Break we do have state testing, so that is something we do have to coordinate very carefully,” Bourcier said. “It’s something we will be discussing over the next several months and see if we wait until the next school year.”

First Floor promised to finish all five schools by May 2017 when it submitted the most over-budget proposal in 2015.

“First Floor Energy Positive has not only promised on time delivery for a Fall of 2017 opening, they, from due diligence investigation, have a proven track record of on time delivery of their projects,” declared board member Ray Winters in a November 2015 board meeting.

As 2018 approaches, two schools are still not accessible to students.

Louis Batson, a consultant whom Horry County Schools paid $40,000, warned the district about giving all five schools to one company at the same time.

“In the event more than two projects are awarded to a team, the likelihood of meeting any schedule diminishes significantly,” the consultant’s report said one month before the board awarded the construction project to First Floor Energy Positive.

Batson cited the number of people available to work and construction projects already planned in the area. He also said builders hadn’t scheduled enough time for weather delays and inspections, among other things.

All five of the schools were supposed to be complete in May 2017 but they were pushed back due to issues acquiring land, starting demolition and several delays due to weather.

Board chairman Joe Defeo calls the report “bogus,” despite its prediction about the delays.

Defeo told News13 in February the potential problems named in the report didn’t cause the construction delays. He blames land issues for delays at the new Socastee Middle School. As for Myrtle Beach Middle School, he says the district’s facilities department took months to turn over the land to the builder.

“[The report] had no basis in fact whatsoever and actually what happened. And as far as I’m concerned we wasted money on him,” Defeo said.

Regardless, Horry County Schools has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond the contracted budget to get the schools open. Based on information from the district and the school builder, at least one facility – Socastee Middle School – may not open its doors until more than a year after the original completion date.

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