Bryan County Schools will hold three public forums in October to gather input as it moves forward in building new schools — including a new high school — in Richmond Hill.
Dates and times have not been announced, but the Board of Education at a work session Saturday morning said the input is necessary as it tries to decide if the future of south Bryan will include one or two high schools in the foreseeable future.
“We need to find out what the people of Bryan County want,” board President Eddie Warren said. “They’ll be paying for it.”
Superintendent Paul Brooksher told the board that Richmond Hill High School is currently at 96 percent capacity with about 2,100 students. A 3,000-student high school would take about four years to complete.
“South Bryan is going to need two high schools, it’s just a matter of where and when,” he said.
Brooksher also told the board he received a memo of understanding that Rayonier will work with the board to provide 27 acres for a new elementary school near Richmond Hill Middle School and 100 acres for a new high school at an undetermined location.
Brooksher said at a board retreat last spring that a new elementary, middle and high school, along with an operations center for south Bryan, would cost about $121 million.
Once a new high school is complete, a new middle school would be built on the current site of the RHHS east campus. Brooksher said it is possible that sixth graders would be kept at the elementary schools until the new middle school is built to relieve pressure on the current RHMS.
“The high school is the domino that has to fall to impact everything else,” he said.
The board has to decide if it should build a large high school for about 3,000 students that could include a fine arts wing, an arena and a ninth grade academy — which would buy the district some time before a second new high school is needed — or build two schools for about 2,000 students each.
“The question is whether people want two vanilla or one strawberry,” Warren said in drawing a comparison.
In the meantime, Brooksher said there are several plans for Richmond Hill High School to help ease the overcrowding over the next few years. The counselors were moved into a suite this year, freeing up three classrooms.
Portable classrooms will be used next year, freeing up another four classrooms, all lockers will be removed and two restrooms will be expanded. For the 2018-2019 school year, covered patios will be built near both cafeterias to give students more room at lunch.
The board’s regular monthly meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at RHHS.