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2,500-student high school now planned for Southeast Bulloch
Hyundai-spurred population growth alters original plan
Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson, with remote control in hand, takes the Bulloch County Board of Education through his slide show with his school building strategy for the next five, 10 and 15 years. An expandable 2,500-student Southeast Bulloch High School is the central element of Phase 1 (2023-2028). - photo by AL HACKLE

During a scheduled work session Thursday, the Bulloch County Board of Education unanimously approved Phase 1 of a long-term facilities plan that includes building a much larger Southeast Bulloch High School than originally proposed.

The board approved a plan in 2021 to build a new SEB with a capacity of 1,601 students. The strategy adopted Thursday now calls for a 2,500-student capacity high school for Southeast Bulloch that would be expandable to 3,000 students, when needed. The much smaller high school was originally projected to cost $50-$60 million, but is now expected to cost about $100 million.

The new high school will be built on an 89-acre tract on Brooklet-Denmark Road, immediately south of SEB Middle School. The original plan of moving SEB Middle into the current high school when the new one is complete and, at the same time, moving fourth and fifth grades from Brooklet Elementary into the current SEB Middle remains unchanged.
According to a release from the school district, a long-term facilities strategy discussion was the topic of the work session. To help guide the discussions, Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson presented the Board with feedback from a facilities survey. Also, Wilson reviewed population projections previously presented to the Board by County Manager Tom Couch, as well as student enrollment projections and available funding resources.
During a March 23 Board meeting, Couch offered information about Census Tract 1107 in the Southeast Bulloch area that is projected to have a 62% population increase by 2030 and an additional 13% by 2040.

The large majority of the growth is being spurred by the $5.4 billion Hyundai Motors Meta-Plant under construction in northern Bryan County that is expected to begin producing electric vehicles in 2025, along with four mostly support plants already announced to be built in Bulloch.

According to the release, Wilson used the Census information to project enrollment growth for the entire Southeast Bulloch area as well as other information provided by Couch to project student enrollment growth in the Statesboro and Portal areas at an 18% and 12% growth for the same time frame.


Keep ‘community schools’
Based on the Board’s feedback and population growth projections, along with consideration for projected capital outlay resources available, Wilson made the following recommendations to the Board, according to the release:

Maintain community high schools as we know them (Portal, Statesboro, Southeast Bulloch). Maintain direct feeder patterns for these community high schools.

Incorporate the career academy concept into all three high schools, offering a variety of programs across the district with access by all students, including transportation.

Address the school facilities needed for student enrollment growth in a cost efficient and steady manner, from both the construction and operating perspectives; reserve some level of education special purpose local option sales tax (E-SPLOST) revenues for other capital needs (ie, technology, buses, facilities improvements).

Move forward with Phase 1 of the superintendent’s recommendation as soon as possible and utilize the Construction Management At-Risk approach to save time and stabilize cost variability.

Reserve the potential use of a debt service millage rate and issuance of general obligation bonds until further notice.

On a motion by Stuart Tedders (District 3), which was seconded by Donna Clifton (District 4), the Board then unanimously voted to move forward with phase one. 

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