Dominion Energy, the McCormick County Sheriff’s Department and the S.C. Forestry Service are all communicating with John de la Howe as part of the school’s transformation into S.C.’s first state-wide residential agricultural school.
These and other activities were announced at a committee meeting late last month. The school is undergoing a major renovation of all facilities in order to accept students in fall of 2020.
Dominion is assisting with upgrading the school’s power grid and possibly placing wiring underground. The McCormick County Sheriff has considered establishing a north end office on the campus, a move that would benefit both the county and the school. The Forestry Service, too, has discussed having an office to the campus.
The school is planning to be part of an Up-state Farm Tour scheduled for this June. Major farm equipment manufacturers are scheduled to participate and make presentations.
The agricultural curriculum has been completed and building renovations are well underway. The Huguenot Residential Hall, previously known as Huguenot Cottage, is to be completed this week.
Renovation of nine other residential halls is to be complete by next summer. Each residence hall has its own specific needs. The coordination for each structure is being done through the school’s maintenance superintendent.
Individual volunteers or construction companies are more than welcome and are asked to work with the school’s maintenance superintendent. Currently the school has hired roofing companies to repair buildings in need.
Plans call for the school to accept students in grades 10 through 12, with the 10th grade students being day students and the grade 11 and 12 students having the option to be day students or residents. Annual meal cost per residential student is estimated to be approximately $3,000 for an August through June school year.
Each residence hall is to house 11 to 12 students with three students per room and an adult residence hall monitor assigned to each one. Current plans are to enroll approximately 100 students by fall of 2020 and grow to around 325 to 350 students. If this enrollment materializes, there will be a potential need for additional residence halls to be built in future years.
De La Howe’s well-known wilderness area will continue to be available, but will not be part of the student’s curriculum. The current school still houses a remnant of the previous school for special needs students, which is in a separate building and is not affiliated with nor expected to expand or participate in future agricultural school plans.
The school would like to renovate the Branch House, which Reverend Branch, a former director, moved to its current location on campus in 1920. Plans call for conversion of this home to a visitor center and museum and quarters for tour guides for the national historical sites located on the campus.
Currently the school employs a staff of less than 20 full time people, down from a peak of 55. Dr. Sharon Wall is the interim president and has an administrative staff including human resources, public relations, finance, technical and clerical support. The school staff reports to a board of trustees appointed by the governor of South Carolina.
This story first appeared in the McCormick Messenger.