New $25 million center to change the face of education in the Pee Dee

The Continuum in Lake City

LAKE CITY, SC (WMBF) - The Darla Moore Foundation has announced the creation of a $25 million educational center based in Lake City that will “change the face of local education."

The innovative center called “The Continuum” will provide students with an array of educational options and workforce development programs.

"Of course education is a huge component of elevating the economics of any area,” Executive Director Jeanette Altman said.

Altman said the idea for the educational center was planted from the same seed that birthed the popular Artfields Festival years ago in the grand scheme of revitalizing the city.

However, the more immediate need came from a shortage of qualified workers.

"Volvo, Boeing and beyond are saying they're in desperate need for skilled workers and in order to meet that demand, that's where the education and the training comes in," Altman said.

The Continuum is partnering with Francis Marion University and Florence Darlington Technical College to offer courses that lead to two and four year university degrees through the center.

There will also be general education dual enrollment courses for high school students.

Assistant Director of FMU Admissions Anna Todd said the university will offer general education courses like math, science and English.

"A student could take two courses in Lake City on Monday and Wednesday and come to Francis Marion the other days," Todd said.

Inside the 46,000 square foot facility will be classrooms, computer labs and science labs, along with workforce training areas for courses like HVAC, welding and health sciences to name a few.

But the center is not only for educational purposes. The space will have a business incubator area and a lecture hall that can be transformed into an event space.

Altman said additional courses will be added as the center evolves to allow students to move from one pathway to another if they desire.

"If they started in a two year tract they could easily parlay that into a 4 year degree," Altman said.

The press release states, “organizers expect hundreds of students from public school districts and private schools across the Pee Dee to enroll for the first classes in August.”

Altman said The Continuum is not a school, at least not right now. She said the long term vision of the center is to provide students and the community with a one stop shop for success.

"I don't think it being a school is completely out of the question,” Altman said. "When you have an educational center like the continuum and you couple that with booming businesses and industry around the area and they see the droves of students heading into the institution and they see the courses that they're taking… they see the workforce right before their eyes.”

Construction is expected to be completed in May.

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