Florence One board responds to Mayors magnet school concerns

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela wants to know what happened to the city’s $12 Million investment to bring a magnet school near downtown Florence.

The Poyner building is now used for adult education. Two years ago, the city and school district agreed to turn the Poyner building into a health science and arts magnet high school. Slow progress made the Mayor question if and when the district will take action but the board says it’s running into roadblocks.

On Tuesday, News13’s Kiahnna Patterson spoke with the Florence School District One board chairman and Interim Superintendent about the project’s progress. Board Chair Barry Townsend hand-delivered his response letter to the Mayor and Francis Marion University (FMU) office Friday. He says there are many reasons for delays with construction on a magnet high school. The board originally planned to renovate McClenaghan High first. Townsend says the plan was to move staff from the Poyner building to McClenaghan.

Last Thursday, the board voted to reject the latest bid of $10.8 Million. Townsend says the budget for Mclenaghan is $7.5 Million. 

“The city is contributing $12 Million to these two projects $10.8 Million would have used up almost all of that money,” said Townsend.

The board also voted to move the Poyner school to the top of the list. He says the changes are not a result of the Mayor’s letter to the board last month.

“We hear your concerns… We’re moving forward at a quicker pace,” said Townsend.

Townsend says renovations to the Poyner building must be aligned with the National Registry of Historic Buildings.

“Those are things. We’ve dealt with before,” said Townsend.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Dan Strickland says architects are ready to make changes but the district must create the school curriculum with FMU first.

“The architects said we need to know what the curriculum looks like before we start working on the classrooms and labs,” said Strickland.

Townsend says although the progress may be slow. He hopes communication between the board and the city improves.

“I’m a parent who is here because I want to keep the buses running and make sure that our students are prepared for tomorrow. That’s my sole motivation for being here,” said Townsend.

Dr. Strickland says he reached out to FMU to set a curriculum planning meeting but there’s no set date at this time.

Florence City Council spoke with their bond attorney Monday in executive session, regarding the magnet project. After the executive session, Wukela says the city will continue to support the project.


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