By Eric Egan
SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, SC (WCIV) -- Ground was officially broken on Sullivan's Island Monday morning to build a new, 74,000-square-foot elementary school.
The groundbreaking looks like it will mark the end of a hotly debated issue in that community over whether islanders wanted a school of this size. When it's finished, the school will be twice the size of the school that used to be at the site.
It's expected to be bigger than any other building on the island.
The hope at Monday's groundbreaking was that the community will finally move past its disagreements. Surrounded by students, Sullivan's Island Principal Susan King opened the ceremony by shoveling a row of dirt at the building site. It signified the start of a new era for students in grades Kindergarten through fifth who, by 2014, will return to Sullivan's for classes.
"This school is going to be such a wonderful place for children to learn," said King.
King, along with Charleston County Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley, called the groundbreaking the positive result of a lengthy and sometimes difficult process that saw some islanders fight for a smaller school.
"We're only looking forward; the school board has been consistent in supporting the rebuilding of this school. Sullivan's Island Town Council has been consistent," said McGinley.
"I feel like the community will mend," King said. "There's no one on Sullivan's Island that doesn't want the best for students."
The future school will house 500 students. McGinley said it has to be built this size to reach efficiency standards. But the school's has been the issue that created controversy.
A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of those who have been outspoken in favor of something smaller.
At a meeting in October, the group asked for the chance to vote on the decision. They presented a petition before the school district and town.
"What we ask you to do is give the situation a chance to resolve itself, give the democratic process a chance to play out and don't undermine it," said one resident during an open forum.
The request was denied.
Later, an attorney representing those against the new school said the town council and had no authority to disregard the motion.
What remains is the beginning of a new chapter of education on Sullivan's Island.