Ground broken on Aiken Co. high school, but district-wide funding problem persists

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News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MONETTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- "It's really exciting to see this starting today here," said Keith Liner, an Aiken County School Board member.

He's talking about the groundbreaking of a new addition, which will make room for a lot more students at the site of Ridge Spring-Monetta High School.

"It's the start of a phased plan to K-12 ... high school, middle school and elementary school on this site," said Warren Wintrode, principal of Ridge Spring-Monetta High School.

Principal Wintrode says these new buildings are much needed for a school built more than 50 years ago.

"This is a 57-year-old school built for 20th century students," he said. "Well, we're teaching 21st century students."

The new K-12 site would also allow for the Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary/Middle school to join its sister school.

"We split two counties," Principal Wintrode explained. "This high school is in Aiken County and the elementary/middle is in Saluda County, so this would consolidate everything."

This groundbreaking marks phase one. The district's run into funding problems, and some are saying the entire project could take up to 20 years to complete.

"We do the best we can with the resources we have available to do the facility-type work like this in our five-year plan," Liner said.

Voters said no to a bond referendum that could have paid to finish this project and several others in Aiken County a few years ago.

Without that money, the district is left to build in phases. Replacing North Augusta High School, for instance, would take eight phases. Ultimately, that would mean it might take 40 years to build another North Augusta High. But there may be another answer.

"We're looking at something in the future of a one-cent sales tax," said Liner.

If people in Aiken County support it, and state lawmakers change a technicality at the state level, it would give the district enough to complete projects like this Ridge Spring-Monetta faster.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to continue on with this project and other projects in the county in years to come," Liner said.

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