The Virtus Academy Board of Directors is pleased to announce that the sale of $13,890,000 million in bonds for the purchase of additional land and construction of a new high school and gymnasium closed on Tuesday, August 22, 2023. As a result, construction will begin in a matter of weeks.
Board Vice President Carlos Washington, the last remaining founding member of Virtus Academy, still currently serving on the board, said, “It’s been a long road getting here, but it feels good to see the vision of the original founders now coming into reality. Even though there have been setbacks along the way, it was always the dream to have a project-based learning K-12 public school of choice in Florence.”
The new construction includes a 28,000-square-foot classroom/office building and a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium that will be situated on the Northwest corner of the school’s campus.
If construction goes as planned, the school will take occupancy next summer, just in time for the start of the 2024-25 school year. As a result, Virtus Academy’s current 10th-graders will not only be the school’s first senior class but the first to graduate out of the new building.
Traffic and Parking Considerations
Construction will include the addition of new roads and parking spaces, as the new building will eventually mean hundreds of additional cars on campus every day, including some driven by students.
“Facilitating the safe, smooth flow of traffic is already on the minds of school administration,” said Dr. Brian Carpenter, Virtus’s interim chief executive. “We think it’s likely the school will have to stagger arrival and dismissal times for the high school and grades K-8.”
Behind the scenes
While construction is underway, other behind-the-scenes work will occur. For example, the school will have to solicit bids no later than next spring to buy a myriad of items such as classroom and office furniture, smart boards, science lab equipment, security cameras, access points for high-speed internet, servers, and copy machines. These items and others will be funded from the school’s reserves, not the bond sale. Carpenter estimates the total outlay will be several hundred-thousand dollars.
Fortunately, the school’s management team includes Mr. David Pierce, Director of Security, Information Technology, and Facilities. Like most charter schools, everyone at Virtus wears multiple hats, including Mr. Pierce, who has been with the school since 2018.
Pierce said, “In addition to large-dollar purchases, we will also need to buy small, everyday things that people don’t really give much thought to, such as classroom wastebaskets, door mats, and soap for the restrooms.”
Another area to experience significant behind-the-scenes change during construction is class scheduling. Carpenter said, “If that sounds easy, you’ve never done it.”
He likens high school class scheduling to solving a Rubik’s Cube while blindfolded. “In this case,” he said, “next year, Virtus will have about 100-120 students in grades 9–11 who all have to earn particular credits to graduate.”
This seems straightforward enough, but a school only has so many teachers, so many rooms, and so many periods throughout the day. “Add to this the fact that Virtus wants to continue its partnership with Florence Darlington Technical College, where Virtus 9th and 10th graders are currently housed so that its students can go right on earning dual-enrollment credits, plus transportation time to go back and forth, and you have a gigantic, very complex puzzle.”
Fortunately, Carpenter said, Virtus Academy Dean of Culture/Counselor/Chief Risk Officer, Ms. Jackee Johnstone, is “a wiz” at scheduling. “She figured out how to schedule our current 80+ ninth– and tenth-graders with just five classrooms this year.
What This Means for Parents Now
Within a few weeks, the building contractor will cut in an access road to bring heavy equipment in and out, starting with excavators. This road will branch off to the right of the current driveway around where it curves. This will probably mean the school will need to work out a zigzag route for K-3 afternoon dismissal.
Stay tuned to our school website, Facebook page, and ParentSquare, for more details and updates.