Chapin High renovations complete

(The State) Teachers and students are celebrating Chapin High’s transformation from a mix of construction and instruction to a sole focus on education.

Extensive renovation of their school is finished after more than two years of learning amid the noise of construction and repeated detours created by temporary interior walls.

Student body president Shayla Flores compares the experience to a tree outside the school’s main entrance that thrived unexpectedly as the $45.9 million project proceeded.

“It not only survived but grew bigger and stronger,” she said. “In a similar way, our school is much better than I imagined.”

Improvements at the school with 1,150 students are designed to end overcrowding and upgrade instruction, particularly in science.

Major additions include a new gymnasium, new cafeteria, new media center, more classrooms and additional sports fields.

Overall, space doubled from 160,800 to 320,800 square feet, all with Wi-Fi. As common in newer schools, lockers no longer line hallways.

Students were updated on progress monthly with a constant reminder to “keep their eyes on the prize,” Principal Akil Ross aid.

Various parts of the package started coming into use for classes during the past year, ending with the gym that came into use recently.

The renovations “played an important part” in the school’s recent selection as one of the best in South Carolina, Lexington-Richland 5 spokesman Mark Bounds said.

Improvements at Chapin High are among the last renovations finished at schools on the north side of Lake Murray, a package authorized by voters at a 2008 referendum.

Completion of the facelift at Chapin comes two years later than originally planned.

The delay was caused from an unsuccessful legal challenge to some aspects of the project from former school board member Kim Murphy.

Work on the new look for the 82-acre campus began shortly after the state Supreme Court rejected her effort in March 2012.

Murphy led a group opposed to the plan accepted at the referendum. They argued that a 727-foot section of a stream that was filled in was the headwaters of creeks that flow into nearby rivers and should be protected.

School officials countered that it was a ditch occasionally filled by rain.

Bounds said the delay created by the dispute is unfortunate but the facelift cements the school as “a source of pride” for the community.

Town leaders are joining in the celebration.

Mayor Skip Wilson called the improvements “an important milestone” for the community of 1,700 residents that is the hub of an area with estimated 50,000 people.

The school is “a strong magnet that draws families to our community,” he said. “It also prepares young people for future success in so many ways.”

It’s the sense of community as much as the facelift and academic reputation of the 91-year-old school that led 15-year-old Louisa Hunter to decide that the school is the best fit when her family moves to the Midlands shortly from North Carolina.

“It’s so welcoming and inviting,” Hunter said.

Her mother Jan called that sentiment the deciding factor.

“We want to be part of this family,” she said.

Watch a video about the renovations here.

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