Group rallying support for $198 million upgrade to Florence One schools

Florence One Upgrade Referendum

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - As the vote for Florence School District One’s 198-million dollar referendum gets closer, one group is trying to get voters on board for it. The newly formed organization, Students First, held a forum Tuesday night to garner more support for the referendum.

"We've got to bring ourselves and our community up to standard and this is what it's going to take to do that,” Co-chair, Stephanie Rawlinson, said.

Rawlinson said Students First was formed at end of November to advocate for students' well-being and education and they believe that starts with rallying behind the funding.

"For us to be competitive and build our economy we've got to cater to that some, we've got to spend our time and cater to our schools so they can be competitive," she said.

If the referendum passes, it will finance four new schools: Southside and Williams Middle, Savannah Grove Elementary and a new building that will combine Timrod and Wallace Gregg Elementary. All three high schools will also get security upgrades, an auxiliary gym, and on-campus stadium.

Co-chair and former teacher, Joetta Chewning, said the funding will only enhance the students' learning environments.

"Lots of good things are going on inside of the classrooms of those buildings and those things will only get better in safer, healthier schools,” Chewning said.

A parent herself, Rawlinson, echoed the same sentiments. She said the current stadium the district shares only has restrooms on the home side, which presents problems for visitors.

"As a parent, I’ve seen those problems. I’ve seen the problem of trying to get a handicapped child into those away stands and we can’t do that anymore,” Rawlinson said. "When our teams play each other one of them has to be an away team. They have to change on the bus. They have to use the bathroom in the woods behind the stadium.”

Both members said the most important thing they want people to know is that the referendum will benefit every school in the district. They invited the district's Superintendent Dr. Richard O'Malley to the meeting in hopes people will walk away with more understanding and motivation for a better school district.

"His vision isn't two days down the road, it isn't two years down the road, his vision is a ten-year plan. He has a long term plan of how we're going to grow and improve our schools,” Rawlinson said.

“These are our schools, not their schools, we all take a part in these schools, we benefit from them, we take pride in them and they represent our community,” Chewning said

Voting for the referendum takes place February 26th.

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