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$198M plan proposed for four new schools, remodeling others in Florence One

December 7, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence One Schools Superintendent Richard O’Malley is proposing a plan for spending nearly $198 million for four new schools and renovations to the three high schools in the district.

O’Malley presented his proposal to the district’s trustees Thursday night. At its Dec. 13 meeting, the board is expected to vote on whether to put the proposal before the voters in a referendum on Feb. 26.

The proposal calls for Southside Middle, Williams Middle and Savannah Grove Elementary schools to receive new buildings and Timrod Elementary and Wallace Gregg Elementary schools to be combined in a new facility.

The three high schools would receive security improvements, additions and renovations, including an athletic facility that would seat 5,000 individuals. The renovations to the high schools would add classrooms, allowing the schools to stop using mobile classrooms.

O’Malley said elementary schools would also be able to stop using mobile units.

Board Chairman Barry Townsend said the referendum proposal is the first step in an overall facilities plan designed to ensure that the teachers and students in Florence One Schools have safe and secure spaces to teach and learn.

“The projects in the proposal are spread out equally throughout the district and were determined by need; however, the impact of the overall plan extends well beyond just these schools,” Townsend said. “This proposal also allows us to immediately begin addressing facilities needs at schools, such as McLaurin Greenwood, Briggs and others, and gives us the ability to put in places much-needed, ongoing upgrade and maintenance plans for all of our schools.”

If the proposal passes, school taxes in Florence won’t rise until 2021, according to Townsend.

Townsend said it would give the public a chance to see their tax dollars at work and have a few years to save and prepare for the rise in taxes.

One board member, John Galloway, questioned whether the high schools needed a stadium during the discussion on the referendum.

Bryan Chapman said he thinks that having the stadiums at each school would produce revenue for each athletic department through advertising at the stadiums.

Townsend said that through building a stadium for each school, the district would able to use property it already owns, but if it only built two stadiums, then the district would have to purchase land, which would cost more money.

During the meeting, board member Porter Stewart said the building plan looks at the needs of the district in a comprehensive way.

“I think it is a good plan,” Stewart said. “I think it captures the interests, priorities and issues we are trying to address.”

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