Lexington 4 seeks voter OK for arts center at Swansea High School

Lexington 4 seeks voter OK for arts center at Swansea High School

From The State

Article by Tim Flach

Amanda Gunter favors Lexington 4’s bid to add an auditorium for performing arts and other gatherings at Swansea High School even though her children are graduated.

“When we went to something, it was an overcrowded room every time,” the Gaston area resident said of attending band concerts at the school. “It (the proposed auditorium) is way overdue.”

School officials are banking on that sentiment to propel voter approval of a $25.4 million package of improvements on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The auditorium is the centerpiece of a package that includes renovations for sports facilities and vocational training classrooms, projects expected to be completed by 2020.

It’s the first set of upgrades sought for classrooms in the largely rural southern edge of the county since the go-ahead in 2007 for a $19.8 million center for early childhood education.

The 1,200-seat auditorium proposed is larger than the enrollment of 875 students at Swansea High.

But school leaders want the facility big enough to handle student assemblies from the other five schools as well as community gatherings.

“None of our schools have enough space for their events,” said Bert LaSalle of the Gaston area, leader of a 30-member group promoting passage. “There is definitely a need for space.”

The package comes with an estimated price tag of $200 in additional property taxes on a home valued at $100,000 in the Gaston-Swansea area, nearly doubling the current bill. The tax increase would pay a loan taken out to build the improvements.

But it’s an investment that Gunter calls necessary to catch up with facilities common at other schools across steadily growing Lexington County.

She is on the advisory committee promoting adoption of the plan through social media and in conversations with neighbors at churches, stores and get-togethers.

Performing arts are joining sports as a vital element in schools today, Superintendent Linda Lavender said.

“All extra-curricular activities are extremely important for developing well-rounded 21st Century graduates,” she said.

No organized opposition to the plan has emerged, so school officials are crossing their fingers that a quiet tax revolt doesn’t occur at the polls.

Residents have been “very supportive” of school improvements in approving two packages since 1999, Lavender said.

Image: A new auditorium for performing arts and assemblies will rise at Swansea High School if Lexington 4 voters give the go-ahead to a $25.4 million package of improvements at a referendum Nov. 8. Provided image