FLORENCE — In little more than a year from now, ninth-graders in Florence will be boasting brand new digs with the opening of the Florence Freshman Center on the high school campus.
During a ground-breaking ceremony Monday, Superintendent Janet Womack said the time is right to build the new facility. The multi-level school will consist of 21 classrooms, a multi-purpose room and accommodate 500 students.
Florence school board president, Bill Jordan, said the state-of-the art facility is scheduled for completion in January 2014. Architects on the project were the firm Lambert, Ezell and Durham. Johnson Contractors, of Muscle Shoals, was awarded the construction bid. Construction begins within two weeks, Womack said.
The new school is being built as the result of enrollment growth the past six years, Womack said.
That growth “is indicative of our community’s support for the excellence of our school system and what’s going on in our classrooms daily,” she said.
Womack said funding for the project, as well as that for the new sports facility, also located on the high school campus, comes through capital projects money through a bond issuance. The sports facility is scheduled for completion by the end of December. That project cost $1.2 million.
The bond issuance for the new Florence Freshman Center is $6.8 million and also includes funding for the addition of an office complex at Florence High School as well as improvements at the Florence Middle School campus.
“Because of (the Florence school district’s) exemplary (fiscal) standing and an interest rate of 2.88 percent, the time is now to be constructing,” Womack said.
The current Florence Freshman Center is in the former Coffee High School building with Florence Middle School. The building is occupied by 1,160 students, 390 of them ninth-graders.
“When you look at how many students are in that building, every class change is like black Friday shopping in the hallways,” Womack said.
But there are multiple other concerns with the freshman center program in its current location. Some classrooms have double use and more than half of the freshman class participates in extracurricular activities that require them to be on the high school campus. Shuttle buses run three times a day to the high school.
In addition, the current location isn’t wired for the needed technology capacity, but the new building will be. With the removal of the ninth-graders, the existing wiring will be sufficient for technology for the middle school grades at the existing building.
Florence Freshman Center Principal Rod Sheppard said the addition of the new building will open up opportunities for the system’s ninth-graders.
“I’ve said many times how nice it would be to have our own building and now it’s happening,” he said. “Our faculty and students are thrilled. It’s going to be a new day for the Florence Freshman Center. We continue to offer the only freshman program in the city of Florence.”
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.