The Orangeburg County School District celebrated a “historic moment,” an “awesome day” and a “momentous occasion” on Thursday when students and officials broke ground for the new Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.

“Today, April 18, 2024 marks the beginning of a new chapter in the rich history of our school,” O-W Assistant Principal Watson Cleckley said.

“As we gather here in this field amidst the anticipation and enthusiasm, we are not only celebrating the construction of a physical structure, but the embodiment of our collective visions for the future,” Cleckley said.

The $125.3 million project is a part of a voter-approved, $190 million spending plan that also includes the construction of a new elementary school in Holly Hill, the expansion of Lake Marion High School in Santee, the renovation and expansion of other schools and the closure of some schools.

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The new O-W will be located on 89 acres on Cook Road, which is located off U.S. Highway 601. The school district also owns about 45 acres of adjacent property that could serve as an access road.

Construction of the two-story, 280,209-square-foot school is projected to begin around May with completion targeted for the fourth quarter of 2026.

OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster recognized the several O-W students in attendance at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

“You give us something to work for,” Foster said. “You give us the energy when we get tired. You give us the commitment when we seem to want to waver. Thank you for giving us that and leading us.”

Foster said earlier this week that he was so excited about the groundbreaking that he ate his lunch sitting in his truck in the field of the future high school.

“At some point, you realize the significance of what is about to happen,” Foster said. “All the vision and all the papers you see and all the images you see is one thing – but to stand in the dirt and being in the space where we are able to do something for generations to come – it does something to your spirit. It does something to your person.”

OCSD Board Chair Ruby Edwards said the future is bright for the children in the Orangeburg County School District.

“All of you here today are showing that you are here for the children. That is what we do every day in Orangeburg County schools,” she said.

O-W Student Body President Laila Law described the event as an “amazing milestone.”

“This new, state-of-the-art facility will enhance the learning environment where students can continue to thrive through exploration, collaboration and to seek endless opportunities,” Law said.

O-W Freshman Class President Patrick Hubbard, who will be in the new high school as a senior, said, “as we break the ground on this new facility, we must also embrace the immense impact of its development.”

“This new school will be an amazing advancement in the community as a center of learning, growth and achievement,” Hubbard said. “The class of 2027 will be the first graduating class in the new school, and we are so excited to cultivate a strong learning environment in a brand-new facility.”

“I believe the new state-of-the-art equipment and new facilities for all sports will inspire our athletes to take pride, stay committed, train harder and become more competitive,” O-W rising junior student-athlete Rhianna Coleman said. “With these new facilities, we will be able to host track meets, host volleyball tournaments and basketball games in a gym that is comfortable.”

Coleman also said the new school will have “second-to-none” football, baseball and softball fields.

“Thank you for seeing our vision and hearing our voices,” Coleman said. “It is a great day to be a Bruin.”

O-W Student Activities Leader Tyjae Johnson thanked the community members who fought for the new school.

“This new facility will not only benefit our students, but it will impact our community by ensuring all students are guaranteed a first-class education,” Johnson said.

Former Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 Superintendent Dr. Walter Tobin said since he left the county in 1999, he has worked in ten school districts. Some were able to provide students with varied learning opportunities while others had students learning in dilapidated buildings.

“There has always been a vision in Orangeburg to do the best that you possibly can to provide the best for your students. I am going to commend you for your vision,” Tobin said.

Tobin reflected on the late OCSD trustee Peggy James-Tyler and educational leader Robert “Wag” Howard and the foundation they helped lay for education in the county.

“I think that Peggy Tyler and Wag Howard are reveling at this opportunity, reveling at what you are doing here today,” Tobin said.

Principal Architect Mary Beth Branham of LS3P said the new school and athletic facilities will help students “achieve academic excellence to prepare them for college and career paths.”

“The exterior design and the entry façade celebrate the significance that this school plays in this community as whole, built upon the foundation and the footsteps of those who have passed through the halls of O-W High School in the past,” Branham said.

“Our hope is that the learning environment in this new school will support your vision for the development of students with world-class knowledge and skills,” she said.

General contractor MB Kahn Construction Inc. Executive Vice President Bret Estridge said, “When complete, this campus will generate excitement from your students, provide learning spaces that your teachers will thrive in and become a gathering place for the community we serve.”

Estridge said the new school will also be attractive to companies and businesses looking to locate in the area.

“This school will impress,” Estridge said.

The main school building will be located off Cook Road, with practice fields and a 4,500-seat football stadium being near the rear of the property.

The school will be able to serve 1,300 students. It can be expanded to serve 1,600.

The school’s first floor will be 191,506 square feet and the second will be 88,703 square feet.

Inside the school, the entrance will have administration and academic wings.

The lower floor will also include a cafeteria, a 400-seat auditorium and drama, band and chorus rooms. A 3,000-seat gym will include space for practice court facilities, volleyball and a weight room.

A media center will be in the middle of the school.

The second floor will have more academic space, work rooms and guidance counselor space.

The media center will provide open and private spaces branded with O-W colors. The dining room will also be branded with school colors.

The school’s campus will also include a 15,411-square-foot field house; a 2,195-square-foot baseball and softball support building and a 687-square-foot press box.

The campus will also include tennis courts, baseball and softball fields and concession stands.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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