Janet Graham, Melanie Wellons

Horry County Board of Education members Janet Graham and Melanie Wellons consider which projects to make a priority in the board's five-year plan. 

Overcrowding in Carolina Forest and replacing an older school building on the South Strand rank highest on the Horry County Board of Education's five-year priority list.

During a nearly three-hour meeting Monday, board members discussed their priorities for the coming years with the help of facilitator Peggy Torrey.

“We’ll be coming back to the board with that, and obviously there’s always the option for discussion and modification,” said Horry County Schools (HCS) Superintendent Rick Maxey.

Building two new elementary schools in the Carolina Forest area and replacing St. James Elementary School remain the top priorities for the board over the next five years.

Other projects that made the list include renovating Carolina Forest High, Myrtle Beach High, Aynor High and Daisy Elementary, as well as completing the upgrades to some school tennis facilities.

The tennis facilities in the $4.6 million project include Aynor High, St. James High, Socastee High and North Myrtle Beach High.

The votes to put the new Carolina Forest elementary schools at the top of the list were unanimous, and the votes to put replacing St. James Elementary next came from eight of the 11 districts. 

They took into consideration the recent district assessment of the conditions of all of the schools, as well as the growth and expected capacity changes and the recent athletic master plan.

It is estimated that the two new Carolina Forest elementary schools will cost $64 million each, and the replacement of St. James Elementary School could cost approximately $66 million.

Some other projects that were under consideration for the five-year plan but didn’t make it to the Top 10 included additions to Carolina Forest High School, the possibility of a completely new high school for the Carolina Forest area, replacing Conway Education Center and replacing South Conway Elementary School.

“Carolina Forest High School is 28 years old and has never had a major HVAC renovation,” said HCS Director of Planning Joe Burch, noting that most of the $33 million renovation cost would be HVAC and ductwork.

Burch did acknowledge that both St. James Elementary and South Conway Elementary have been on the replacement project list since 2015.

South Conway Elementary’s replacement would need to coincide with the building of the new Conway bypass. That's because the property for the school sits off Hemingway Chapel Road and is adjacent to the road project. Burch said the road project may not begin for a few more years.

Due to its property being only about nine acres, Burch said SCES needed to be a candidate for replacement because there wouldn’t be room on the property to use modular classrooms during major renovations.

Revisiting their school capacity discussion from the winter, Burch said River Oaks Elementary, Carolina Forest Elementary and Ocean Bay Elementary are all over capacity and right now 72 modular classrooms are spread among these three campuses.

“That’s almost enough for two new schools,” Burch said.

By 2027, Carolina Forest High will reach 149% capacity, and the school is only built for roughly 2,500 students, Burch said.

“We’re going to have to deal with that in some way,” he said.


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