By Greg Oliver
WESTMINSTER — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced the closing of South Carolina schools through the end of the academic year, construction of the new Fred P. Hamilton Career and Technology Center at the Oconee Industry and Technology Park on S.C. Highway 11 hasn’t been affected.
“We’re still on schedule,” Oconee County School District associate superintendent for administration Steve Hanvey said earlier this week during a regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting. “We have folks working over there now, and Trehel continues to make good progress. We continue to have our Thursday meetings with them, and they feel like we will get the building in late June, and then, as long as nothing comes back and they don’t shut anything down, we’ll move a lot of the stuff out (of the current building).”
Hanvey said Wednesday’s announcement by Gov. Henry McMaster and State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman that schools will stay closed through the spring will “expedite the process.”
“This will allow us to do work at the current career center we would have had to wait until summer to do,” Hanvey said Friday. “There are several rooms, doorways and areas that need to be changed to fit the needs of the programs we are moving to that site. It also allows use to free up some of our maintenance staff to install cabinets, storage shelving and other things at the new career and technology center.”
The new school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 10, and the new building is supposed to open the week before, when teachers report back to work.
“Construction of the new center is right on schedule, along with renovations required at the current career center to adapt it to what’s going on in there,” Hanvey said. “We don’t anticipate any problems with the opening.”
The 140,000-square-foot facility is named after longtime Oconee County school superintendent Fred Hamilton, who served from 1963-81. Officials said the new center will enhance career and technology programs and allow students to walk to the Tri-County Technical College campus next door for internships and co-ops.
The project is on target to cost less than $35 million — the guaranteed maximum price. The board of trustees has given chief financial officer Gloria Moore the authority to proceed with the sale of a $15.7 million taxpayer-backed bond issue in order to generate funding needed for completion of the center.
The existing career center, which has been in operation in its facility off Keowee School Road for more than 50 years, will house adult education, the district’s alternative school, Oconee Academy and the district’s maintenance, food service, purchasing and transportation departments. Hanvey said the main priority of the district is “getting the stuff from the current career center to the new career center.”
Hanvey asked trustees to consider a name change for the existing career center since it shares the same name as the one under construction. The board plans to discuss that more at the board’s next meeting in May.
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