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Florence 1 Schools Announces School of Innovation

Florence 1 Schools Announces School of Innovation

Florence 1 Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley has announced a new school will be coming to Florence 1 Schools, with a focus on healthcare and providing targeted learning for students who have an interest in working in the medical field. The School of Innovation in Healthcare (SIH) will be housed in the historic Poynor Building which will be able to be renovated thanks to a $10 million dollar grant from the Florence County Legislative Delegation.

Rendering of Poynor Building once renovations are complete

Representative Phillip Lowe, Chairman of the Florence County Delegation, says the members developed a two-year plan to fundamentally change the entire Pee Dee region. 

“Two years ago we fully funded three industrial sites,” Lowe said. “That is paying huge dividends. This year, workforce was our priority. By comprehensively addressing K-12, Florence-Darlington Tech and FMU, our area can provide the skilled workers needed for growth. I wish to thank Senators Reichenbach, Williams, Johnson and Sabb along with Representatives Jordan, Alexander, Williams, Kirby for working together to secure unprecedented investment. Ten million from state funds saved local taxpayers ten million in potential local property tax increases and made this project possible. Generations of our people will benefit from improvements in healthcare and the stimulation of downtown development that this revolutionary project will provide.”

Poynor, which opened in 1908, is a 58,600-square-foot, three-story building that has served many uses over the years including as a Junior High School. Once it is renovated there will be 18 instructional areas, 2 conference areas, and an auditorium that can accommodate up to 400 people.

Interior renovations will update building systems such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, fire protection and technology. A new building layout will incorporate existing classrooms as well as create a medical instruction room, conference areas, restrooms and administrative offices.

Renovation of the building’s exterior includes total roof and window replacement. Enhancements of the building’s property will include hardscaping, landscaping, and the installation of a fountain and perimeter fencing.

“On behalf of the Board, I am certainly happy that we have arrived at the point that the much-needed health sciences regional magnet school for high school students has been approved and the necessary funding has been secured through our legislative delegation to undertake and complete the renovations and upgrades at the historic Poynor School,” said F1S Board of Trustees Chairman Porter Stewart. “This school will provide a rich learning environment, made possible through collaborations with education partners and medical providers located here in the Pee Dee, thereby adding to the quality of instruction and providing key insights for career preparations in the health fields.”

The School of Innovation in Healthcare will be run by Florence 1 Schools and its partner entities: McLeod Health, MUSC Florence and HopeHealth. The curriculum will be driven by the medical partners, who will help identify and address the most vital needs within the healthcare industry through the instruction. 

“McLeod Health is extremely pleased to partner with Florence One to create a School of Innovation for healthcare,” said Donna Isgett, McLeod Health President and CEO. “This collaboration with a dynamic teaching program will foster interest and competence for those seeking future healthcare careers and will enable continued growth and support of the provision of superlative services that meet the medical needs of our communities. It’s a win-win, both in employment opportunities for our young people as well as adding the vital human resource component to our teams of local people caring for local people.”

The areas of study will include entry-level positions that require a high school diploma such as clinical, lab, clerical, support staff and medical billing as well as clinical positions that require a certification or post-high school diploma such as registered nurse, respiratory therapist, pharmacist, and certified surgical technician. Students will be prepared to move into several healthcare jobs immediately after high school while also expediting required post-secondary training for positions and pathways that require certification or a college degree.

“MUSC Health has been committed to education for over 100 years,” said Jay Hinesley, Chief Executive Officer for MUSC Florence. “That commitment extends to every community we serve across the state of South Carolina. This new partnership with F1S will make a tremendous impact on the youth of our community and will expose them to all of the incredible opportunities that exist in healthcare. It’s a wonderful example of how institutions can work together to make a positive impact in the community. We are incredibly proud to be a part of this program.

Students in the School of Innovation program will pursue project-based learning and will be afforded a schedule that will allow them to work around community and hospital resources outside of regular school hours. 

“This School of Innovation project is very exciting,” said HopeHealth Chief Executive Officer Carl Humphries. “It meets the needs of our student population across the district in a way that not only allows them to think outside of the box but also to be better prepared for a future in health services. All the while, the project addresses one of our greatest workforce challenges in the Pee Dee which is qualified healthcare professionals for our hospitals and outpatient practices.”

In order to receive the waivers necessary to operate a School of Innovation, Florence 1 had to submit an application to the State Board of Education detailing plans for the school’s structure, partners, funding, instruction and location. That application was approved in October 2023. 

“Florence 1’s School of Innovation, in partnership with the local and regional healthcare employers, is a sterling example of what the Schools of Innovation Concept is all about and a model for the public education system in SC,” said Richard Harrington, State Board of Education Member. “I am so proud of our local school leadership for their visionary approach to continuing to improve the education of our children geared towards producing graduates that are prepared to take advantage of local career opportunities.”

 

Project Timeline with anticipated completion date 

December 2022 F1S Board of Trustees approved SIH application

October 2023 State Board of Education reviews/recommends approval of SIH application

September 2023-June 2024 Design, Construction costs and permits for facility

June 2024 Construction begins, planning committee begins work on curriculum and pathways

December 2025 Construction Completion

January 2026 School of Innovation opens for students