FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The Florence School District One, the city of Florence, and Francis Marion University announced a partnership to demolish and build a brand new R.N. Beck Learning Center on West Sumter Street.
The R.N. Beck Learning Center is more than just a building to people who live in the neighborhood; they said it's becoming an evolution. The building has been on the corner for the past 65 years. It was once Carver Elementary and has most recently been a place Florence School District One used to create a safe haven for early childhood development.
"It's very important for young children to have a place that's appropriate for them to learn," said Debra Purvis, who has taught pre-kindergarten at the learning center the past five years.
A brief ceremony was held outside the building on Thursday morning, with city and education officials in attendance, to officially announce that demolition has begun and construction will last the next 18 months.
Florence City Councilwoman Teresa Ervin said as she looked back at the 30 pre-K students who were in attendance, it reminded her of walking to school back when the building was Carver Elementary.
"I walked and used Sumter Street right here to Carver school and even when I moved over to Gladstone Street, I walked down Gladstone to come to Carver," Ervin said. "So Carver has grown. Carver has grown to the R.N. Beck Center. Now, to take it into the future, look at what's going to occur. Multi millions of dollars will be poured back into the community."
Money from the city's Tax Increment Financing District will allow the renovation and repurposing of the facility.
John Bowman Architects said the new learning center will contain 36,000 square feet and replace the existing school. It will have 16 additional classrooms, a large multipurpose room and a new playground area located within the interior perimeter of the building to provide more of an optimal early childhood learning environment.
The look of the new school will use a combination of a traditional red and tan brick, with metal roofing that will provide a full new look and complement the surrounding neighborhoods.
Delonte Jackson is a part of the west Florence community. He said he went to the demolition announcement Thursday because he visited the learning center up until high school.
"We had the Valentines dance, we had the Christmas dance. I mean, this where my mom and grandmother voted at," Jackson said. "This has been a part of our community."
To Jackson, he believes they are building on a foundation of history that's already there.
"When I saw that they were going to tear it down, I started asking questions ever since," he said. "I wanted to know what was the next step you know, and the more I found out, the more encouraged I was."
The hope is it will restore a sense of pride and go along with the neighborhood development happening on Vista and Pine streets. There is also a plan to build new homes right across from the learning center that the city of Florence is behind.
"This is an awesome opportunity for the West Florence community, so I'm ecstatic," Jackson said.