Last updated: April 04. 2014 1:59PM - 1112 Views
By Lucas Vance lvance@civitasmedia.com

Midlands STEM Institute representatives, state legislative delegation and project developers attended the charter school's ground breaking ceremony on Wednesday.
Midlands STEM Institute representatives, state legislative delegation and project developers attended the charter school's ground breaking ceremony on Wednesday.
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WINNSBORO — Midlands STEM Institute’s executive director Marie Milam and board members as well as community members and local state legislative delegation attended Wednesday’s ground breaking ceremony at 1403 Greenbrier Mossydale Road.

The board of directors selected Hood Construction Inc. of Columbia to complete renovations of the school’s facility this summer.

The $1.5 million renovation project on the 18,400-square-foot facility will begin April 7.

Formerly a nursing home, the facility will be transformed into a state-of-the-art educational facility, complete with nine classrooms, a media center, and space for art, music, physical education, health and guidance.

“This is an exciting milestone in the history of Midlands S.T.E.M. Institute,” said Milam. “A lot of hard work and planning has gone into the community’s dream of creating a comprehensive S.T.E.M. school. Seeing those plans come to fruition is very gratifying, to say the least. The only thing more satisfying will be seeing the school filled with children eager to learn and teachers and staff eager to serve them.”

Renovations were paid for through an agreement with American Charter Development.

Rich Morley from American Charter Development is the project’s developer and David Anderson of JSD Architecture is the architect.

Milam specifically pointed out Anderson for his compliance and professional diligence.

“He (Anderson) is the most incredible person,” she said. “He actually changes everything on a dime that I ask him to change. He is just amazing. Without American Charter Development, we wouldn’t be here. It has been a great partnership and we plan to make this school the best ever.”

MSI board chairman Kevin Thomas said the process to open a charter school in Fairfield County started two years ago.

“When I began this journey to provide a tuition free public charter school, I never imagined how hard it would be, but I also never imagined how rewarding it would be,” Thomas noted.

Milam said the there has been a lot of hard work to get MSI to this point, but believes the efforts will pay dividends in the end.

“This is going to be a wonderful school that transforms Fairfield County,” she stated.

Also in attendance was State Senator Creighton Coleman and State Representative Mary Gail Douglas, both who Thomas gave special recognition for their support from the start.

“Every time I’ve asked for something they’ve gone out of their way to provide assistance,” Thomas commended. “If it was representative Mary Gail Douglas giving me a letter of support or senator Coleman helping me navigate the bureaucracy of government, they’ve never once hesitated to assist us in our efforts.”

Tracy Richards, director of school development for the S.C. Public Charter School District, welcomed MSI to the charter school family and praised the board’s efforts.

“I’ve been working with them (Thomas and Milam) for two years and I don’t know anybody else that is more dedicated to his happening,” she noted. “I don’t know any school that has hired a principal that has the experience Marie (Milam) does. It is going to be successful because you’ve got the right things in place. You’ve got commitment and knowledge, so for us, we’re happy to have you.”

Thomas began the journey over two years ago to provide a tuition free public charter school, but confided that the vision started over five years ago while serving with Salkehatchie and noticed the vicious cycle of poverty in the community.

“I thought the only way out of poverty for these children was education,” Thomas explained.

He stated that the process has been aided along by Milam and recognized her for her tireless efforts as well.

“I continually get e-mails from her at all hours of the night,” he said with a chuckle. “She has conducted over 70 interviews and applied for numerous grants. She has worked several fundraisers and festivals and swept many floors.”

One of the first tasks for Hood Construction will be to repair the roof and then on Monday, begin the demolition process inside the building so the engineers can start their design process.

There will be anywhere from 10 to 12 workers to perform demolition and upwards of 50 workers during the peak of construction.

Hood Construction anticipates the project’s completion by Aug. 1. MSI plans to open Aug. 18 for the 2014 Fall semester.

Currently there are children enrolled not only from Fairfield County, but from surrounding areas including Richland, Kershaw and Chester counties as well.

There is a waiting list for kindergarten, but there are open slots for grades 1-5.

For enrollment or more information visit www.midlandsstem.org or call 803-815-1524.

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