Story by Trey Rice, Sam Aaron, Abby Beauregard

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Photo by Sam Aaron

With population growth in the town and surrounding area of Chapin, Lexington Richland School District Five has built a new middle school for seventh and eighth graders while fifth graders and sixth graders shall remain at the old middle school, now Chapin Intermediate School.

“Last year we were sixth, seventh and eighth grade and we had 1185 students and ten portables, so we needed more space,” Chapin middle school’s principal, Anna Miller said.

With overcrowding in not just Chapin Middle School but also the elementary school, it was decided by the district that a newer, larger middle school would have to be built. The old middle school however, would not be put to waste.

“We needed another school to help with the growth, but we had overcrowding at the elementary schools and middle schools and we could only build one school,” said Miller. “By making Chapin intermediate fifth and sixth and Chapin middle seventh and eighth, it helped with the overcrowding of the elementary and middle schools by building one school.”

With the building of an entire new school, there is also the requirement of funding for such a project. The town of Chapin finds this funding in the district’s bond referendum.

“This is the final project in the bond referendum,” Miller explained. “Several years ago we had a district bond referendum. A lot of projects were involved in that and the building of Chapin Middle School was the final project.”

Construction of the new middle school began in May of 2014 and while it is nearly completed, a few finishing touches are still needed. Despite this, the school has gained conditional occupancy from the construction company, so that the school year would not be delayed.

“We were able to get conditional occupancy which means that the school made certain agreements with the construction company so that we could occupy the building,” Miller said. “We’re finalizing some landscaping, fencing is going up, some painting along our carline area, we are going to double-stack our cars and we need a line painted there to try and keep the traffic off of Broad River Road.”

Still, despite its unfinished status, the reaction to the new building has largely been positive,.

“We have so many more windows and it’s open. We have common areas where students can relax a little when they’re not sitting in class all the time, a recess area instead of a parking lot, outside courtyards, we have a designated car line that really works it does what it’s supposed to do. For me it’s just it’s so much more open and bright and I don’t even have to turn on the lights in the classroom,” eighth grade math teacher David Fisher said.

Although there are these few issues that still need to be dealt with, Chapin Middle School has started a new program called Fun Academies. This program allows students to sign up for classes not based on requirement but by interest.

“One of the things that we do that I think is pretty neat is that we have what we call fun academies. Those are four sessions per semester for thirty minutes each and our students sign up by interests so it can be anything from ideology to zumba to photography to knitting, crocheting and cross-stitching, cake decorating, law enforcement, veterinary science and things of that nature,” Miller said.

With a new neighborhood sprouting up in Chapin, the school is expecting a flood of students in the coming years and the school may have to finalize plans to add a third wing to the school.

“The school is wonderful. The only thing they need is more space already. They’re trying to address some of those issues with new neighborhoods being built in the area, across the street for instance. They’re going to have to increase capacity for the school,” PTO President and parent Vera Timmons said.

Since Chapin middle only accepts students from the same zone as it, there should be less trouble with overcrowding as there has been in the past. The students are happy and Principal Miller remains enthusiastic.

“Our teachers, our support staff, everybody here has been so wonderful about it. It’s a great feeling, our kids are happier, we have a lot of windows and state of the art space,” Miller exclaimed. “Our students have really enjoyed a lot of that, smiles on their faces all the time.”