Beneath the hum of rumbling backhoes and swiveling cranes, educators plowed the earth with golden shovels for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the new Fountain Inn High School. Construction for the $84 million project is actually well underway, with erected gym walls providing a backdrop for the Nov. 5 ceremony.
“I ride by here twice a day to see what’s going on,” says Principal Maureen Tiller. “They are really rocking and rolling out here, getting things done. To think about that being a gym, and what’s going to happen in that gym. I envision kids in there, and families and programming. It definitely makes it more real.”
While the gym is the first section to go up, it’s the lab space and classrooms that will make this high school one-of-a-kind in Greenville County.
“Most of our other schools may have some career-tech programs, but they are usually minimal,” says Burke Royster, superintendent of Greenville County School District. “This folds in career and technical-lab space that lends itself to advanced manufacturing and engineering: CNC [computer numerical control]; machine tools; welding; mechatronics. In fact, the way the building is laid out, you can actually look from the second-floor classrooms down into the technical areas.”
When Fountain Inn High opens in August 2021, students will have on-campus access to traditional advanced-placement and college-credit courses, in addition to state-of-the-art manufacturing and engineering instruction. Programs will include mentoring, job shadowing and apprenticeships with business and industry partners.
“We let the program drive the design, as opposed to the other way around,” Royster says. “We are ahead of the curve in what we’re putting in here, and what we’re doing will have a good value to the taxpayers. When students leave here, they will already have college credit, industry certifications, or be entering the workforce ready to work.”
Tiller is already hard at work engaging seventh-graders, from her current office inside Rudolph Gordon School. Many of these students, along with some from Bryson Middle School, will form FIHS’ inaugural grade of a projected 250 pupils, creating the graduating class of 2025. Each year, another freshman class will enter behind them.
“They will blaze through all four years, and set the traditions, and what the culture is going to be,” Tiller says. “The focus we’re building off of now is creating pathways to the future for all students. That means an inclusive environment; a supportive environment.”
Tiller has been gathering feedback from future students, community leaders and district leadership teams, to select a mascot and colors. The short list now stands at three, and administrators say they plan to reveal the results of the School Mascot Challenge in December.
The facility is also generating pride as the community’s first, stand-alone high school since the original Fountain Inn High closed in 1957, district officials say. Over the years, Fountain Inn teens joined others from across the Golden Strip to attend Hillcrest and Mauldin high schools. FIHS will help ease overcrowding at both, according to officials.
“It lends a sense of identity,” Tiller says. “In a town this size, everything happens at the high school, so it brings the community together. Sports, fine arts, plays, orchestra, those are the things that these students and families will have as memories of growing up in Fountain Inn.”
Less than one mile from the town’s original high school (which is now the Younts Center for Performing Arts) the new facility will draw residents down Quillen Road, while providing room for growth. The first phase on the 62-acre site calls for a 229,000-square-foot building to serve 1,000 students, as well as a full athletic complex featuring a football stadium, tennis courts, and multiple soccer, baseball and softball fields. Phase two will eventually add wings to the school to house another 1,000 students.
Tiller is in a position very few principals experience: building a school from groundbreaking to graduation.
“It’s different coming into an established school situation and try to make culture, or instructional program changes,” the veteran principal says. “When you’re building from the bottom up, it’s daunting, but exciting, because you get to put an imprint on what you’ve learned. We want to make this school innovative, and meet the needs of 21st century graduates.”
At a Glance
Fountain Inn High School
600 Quillen Ave.
229,000 square feet
46 classrooms and instructional spaces
Cafeteria: 6,000 sqare feet
Media Center: 2,000 sqare feet
Football stadium: 2,500 seats
Soccer fields: 2
Tennis courts: 4
Baseball field: 1
Softball field: 1
Scheduled to open: August, 2021
Cost: $84.2 million (includes construction, furniture, equipment, roadwork and all facilities)
FIHS is the district’s first new high school since the opening of Mauldin and Riverside high schools in 1973.
Mascot finalists: Fury, Wolves, Blue Devils (The original FIHS mascot.)
Artist renderings of the school can be found here:
Board members unanimously approved the student reassignment plan on Oct. 22. It can be found here.