Southside Groundbreaking Ceremony

Craig Washington, principal of Southside Middle School, students and Florence School District One board members break ground on the new Southside Middle School facility on Dec. 6, 2017 on John Paul Jones Road.

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Florence One Schools board approved the district to begin Phase II of the pay-as-you-go plan to restart the new Southside Middle School project.

The action took place late Thursday night after an executive session discussing personnel and contractual matters.

The board approved a motion to “begin the implementation of the middle school concept by maximizing utilization of existing facilities and by re-engagement of Phase II of pay as you go with existing available reserve monies and 8% monies, as available, as of Southside, Williams and Savannah Grove by specifically by restarting the Southside Middle School project immediately.”

After the construction of Southside Middle, Williams Middle will be the next school on the list.

The restarting of the pay-as-you-go plan comes after a Feb. 26 referendum to purchase $198 million in bonds to build and renovate schools failed by a 3-to-1 margin.

Superintendent Richard O’Malley said they will be ready to begin construction in the next six to eight months.

“This is a really exciting time for the district,” O’Malley said. “Given our advances academically and now what we’re moving forward facility wise, I think the district has moved farther in the last 13 months than it has in a long time.”

O’Malley said the district has built up its fund balance so it can use $20 million to kick start the Southside Middle School project and contribute at least $5 million of the 8% money toward the school.

O’Malley said the district stopped pay as you go, so he never opposed the plan, but he stopped so he could understand finances of the district.

In addition to approving the restarting of the pay-as-you-go plan, the board also approved the purchasing of approximately 1.9 acres of land adjacent to the Alfred E. Rush Academy and the old library building at 319 S. Irby Street.

Personnel at the district office on South Dargan Street will move to the old library building, opening the Dargan Street office for the district office staff members who are housed in the Poynor building. O’Malley said this will allow for the district to begin renovations at the Poynor and McClenaghan buildings.

“We’re excited, because we are going to bring two schools downtown that haven’t been here in maybe … 50 years, and actually bring students downtown, which I know is something that has been a part of the plan for a long time,” O’Malley said.

The district recently approved the renovations on the Poynor building to become a magnet school for the health sciences and the old McClenaghan High School building to house the adult education program.

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