FLORENCE -- The Pee Dee Education Center has announced it will use all nine acres adjacent to the Francis Marion University campus when it relocates its facility from its current Dargan Street site.
Groundbreaking will occur, hopefully, this summer, Tom Truitt, director of the center, said. The FMU Research Park property will be purchased for $50,000 from the South Carolina Research Authority. The FMU Research Park was established in 1996 in a cooperative agreement between FMU, and the city and county of Florence.
The education center hopes to build a one-story, 10,000-square-foot facility. Plans are to include conference rooms, office space and research fellows, distance learning facilities, as well as be the site of on-going professional development for teachers in the region.
The facility is estimated to cost about $1 million and will also house the Pee Dee Math/Science Hub and other cooperative programs established between FMU, the Hub, and the Pee Dee Education Center. The education center is a consortium of 19 school districts in eight counties and the Hub serves school-aged children in 21 school districts in nine counties.
The plans are for the education-minded groups to work with FMU to better meet the needs of school districts in the area. If all goes as planned, and hoped, an exploratory science center, much like Charlotte’s Discovery Place may become a reality at the facility. Currently, a steering committee is conducting a feasibility study.
The site may also house a child development training center for those who work with children age zero to five, Bob Sawyer, Dean of the School of Education, Behavioral and Social Sciences, said. A community group has been studying the training of day care workers in the area and is developing a community-based plan for better training those who work in early childhood development.
Training could include child development curriculum as well as business curriculum for training toward better management of day care facilities. The new location of the education center is expected to centralize education activities in the region and to foster partnerships among secondary higher education and the business community.