The Continuum in Lake City will change the face of local education
LAKE CITY, S.C. — A dynamic new educational initiative, backed by a powerful partnership among some of the Pee Dee’s leading institutions, will open this summer, offering area students pathways to meaningful careers, and employers statewide a much-needed stream of skilled employees.
The Continuum, housed in a new $25 million facility in downtown Lake City, will be a regional center for education and workforce development, focused on advancing the knowledge and mastery of innovative and technical skills. It will offer an array of educational options, including courses that lead to two-year and four-year university degrees, dual enrollment courses for high school students, workforce development certificate programs, programs for K-12 students in science and innovation, and even business incubator space.
Organizers expect hundreds of students from public school districts and private schools across the Pee Dee to enroll for the first classes in August.
The Darla Moore Foundation is partnering with Francis Marion University and Florence-Darlington Technical College to create The Continuum, which Lake City philanthropist and entrepreneur Darla Moore calls “a vision for what the future of education could, and probably should, look like.
“There are many issues facing South Carolina today,” said Moore. “None is more pressing than creating an educational system that more effectively meets the needs of the businesses and industries of this state, and the citizens who make them go. Major employers — everyone from Volvo to Boeing — inform me they need a better-trained, better-educated workforce to sustain their growth in our state. That’s a vital need we must meet. I believe The Continuum will fast become a model for how that can be done.”
Dr. Fred Carter, president of FMU, said The Continuum represents one of the most innovative ideas he’s seen in his more than four decades in education.
“What Darla has brought together here is extraordinary in its breadth and vision,” said Carter. “There is no single path to becoming an educated person or to engaging in a meaningful vocation. Through its unique structure and flexibility, The Continuum opens new doors for students across the spectrum. FMU is eager to begin this bold, new adventure.”
Interim FDTC President Ed Bethea said, “The Continuum is going to be huge for Lake City and the surrounding area. Lower Florence County will have easy access to educational opportunities that have never before been available in that part of Florence County.”
Courses in a variety of disciplines will be offered across The Continuum’s many academic tracks. Dual enrollment courses, and courses for traditional students, will include English, math, history, biology, chemistry, art, music, business, computer science, education, pre-engineering and pre-nursing. Initially, the workforce development courses will provide training in HVAC, welding, health sciences, mechatronics and advanced manufacturing technology. Additional courses will be added as The Continuum grows and develops.
Instructors from FMU and FDTC will teach courses appropriate to their credentials and abilities. Courses at various academic levels will not be combined, but The Continuum’s organizers are firm believers in the educational synergy of the enterprise. Students will be able to change tracks and pathways during the course of their education, as new opportunities and interests present themselves.
Students at The Continuum will be completing degree requirements for a variety of institutions. Students may acquire credits towards high school diplomas, towards certificates, towards two-year degrees, and — through both dual enrollment courses and regular college courses —towards baccalaureate (four-year college) degrees.
At least a half dozen public school districts, and several private schools, have indicated they will send students to The Continuum. Some dual enrollment, and other courses, already offered by FMU and FDTC, will move to The Continuum facility in Lake City.
The Continuum’s vision and curriculum is innovative, but no more so than the building which will house it.
Architect McMillan Pazdan Smith drew inspiration for the design of the 46,000-square foot structure from Lake City’s rich agricultural history. The Continuum’s wood-slat exterior is inspired by the look of local barns and outbuildings, and the landscaping mimics rows of crops in a field.
The Continuum is rising on the site of a former big-box store and the architectural and construction team cleverly utilized portions of the old structure in the new. The raised roof of The Continuum’s central corridor invites students to gather and allows abundant natural light to fall on what was the center of the former big box floor. The massive wooden structure — itself a unique and impressive engineering achievement — delivers an ambience that is both warm and industrial.
The Continuum will be filled with state-of-the-art technology. Included in that mix will be seven high-tech classrooms, three computer labs, three distance learning (online) classrooms, large prep rooms for biology and chemistry labs, four workforce development classrooms/labs with special features like roll-up doors and heavy-duty power and water access, health science space, and a large lecture hall that can be converted into event space.
Organizers emphasize that they expect The Continuum building to become an important civic center for the citizens of Lake City and beyond.
The business incubator will have a separate public entrance and space for up to five nascent businesses. The incubator will be run by FMU through it’s Kelly Center for Enterprise and Innovation, which operates the business development center for the City of Florence in downtown Florence.
South Carolina-based Thompson Turner Construction is overseeing the construction of The Continuum. Thompson Turner is a division of the Thompson Companies, which provides construction and maintenance services worldwide.
McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture is a Greenville, S.C.-based company with offices throughout the southeast. McMillan Pazdan Smith is a leading designer of educational infrastructure and has developed several facilities similar to The Continuum across the state.
The Continuum is currently scheduled to be complete in May. The first classes will begin in August.
Jeanette Altman, most recently the principal at J. Paul Truluck Creative Arts & Science Magnet School in Lake City, will be the director of The Continuum.
Altman is a 1999 graduate of Clemson University where she earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering. She worked for Michelin Tire Corporation in Lexington, S.C. as an industrial engineer for three years before moving to Lake City, and pivoting to the world of education. She was a teacher and assistant principal before assuming the principalship at the Truluck magnet. Altman holds a Masters of Education in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina.
Anna Todd, most recently assistant director of admissions at FMU, will direct FMU’s services at The Continuum, while also managing a variety of other outreach programs for the University. Todd received both her undergraduate degree in business (2006), and her MBA (2008), from FMU.
Briana Dennis, executive director of the Kelly Center at FMU, will manage the business incubator. Dennis received both her undergraduates degree (2003) and her MBA (2007) from FMU.
Other personnel, including a program manager for FDTC at The Continuum, will be named soon.
The Continuum will be governed by a four-member board consisting of Darla Moore (chair); Dr. Marion Fowler, the president and CEO of the Darla Moore Foundation; FDTC’s Bethea; and FMU’s Carter.