Traditionally a fixed-boundary district, Franklin Special School District is expanding its footprint for the future, taking its first step last week during a groundbreaking ceremony for two major capital projects.
FSSD broke ground on a districtwide performing arts center and the much awaited gymnasium at Poplar Grove School.
“The addition of the PAC enhances our existing vision, while allowing our students to grow and develop their strengths in an incredible facility,” said David Esslinger, associate director for finance and administration.
The $16.2 million FSSD Performing Arts Center, a 34,400-square-foot facility, will provide a space for all schools to participate in many types of events including plays, concerts, talent shows and promotion ceremonies. The structure will be built at the north end of Poplar Grove Middle School and will include a 485-seat auditorium with a multipurpose stage, fly loft and performance support spaces, including a pre-performance space, changing rooms and a prop shop.
Performing arts center fulfills vision
The PAC will also include a FSSD Legacy Gallery where the district’s long history will be celebrated.
“The FSSD mission is ‘Excellence in Teaching and Learning For All,’ and we are known for our focus on educating the whole child: artistically, musically, physically and academically,” Esslinger said.
The need for additional physical education space at Poplar Grove School was the catalyst for discussions about constructing a performing arts facility.
The FSSD Board of Education began to discuss the addition of a gymnasium a few years ago and quickly realized there was a districtwide need for a high quality space committed to the performing arts, Esslinger said.
A much needed new gym
Poplar Grove Elementary School Principal Alisha Erickson said she is “thrilled” to see the new gym become a reality.
“This new space will provide great value to our students and teachers, and we are excited to see the construction process underway,” Erickson said.
The $9.2 million gymnasium will serve the Poplar Grove elementary and middle schools, which are located on the same campus.
Erickson said the addition has been needed for many years.
The campus was built with only one gym and a small multipurpose room to share for the entire K-8 building, which includes scheduling between four physical education teachers for daily classes.
“Only having two spaces for four PE teachers creates quite the challenge,” Erickson said. “It will not only serve as an additional teaching space but will allow our basketball, volleyball and cheerleading teams a place to practice and play.”
According to the district, the sharing of gymnasium space has caused many scheduling conflicts, with the elementary physical education departments having to defer to a multi-purpose room for its classes, special events, programs and assemblies when the gym is occupied by the middle school physical education classes and events.
Plus, the current gym is heavily used by athletic teams and upper school drama practices, which makes finding open gym time very difficult for PGES.
The new 22,800 square foot gym will be equipped with 480 bleacher seats in a mezzanine setting overlooking the gym floor and new locker rooms for both home and away teams.
While the new gym will primarily serve the elementary school, the locker rooms will connect with the current gym, so that the middle school athletic teams will be able to use them. The gym floor will be striped for basketball and volleyball.
The large multipurpose room will also double as a tornado shelter.
Erickson said the new gym will have a positive impact on the school and families.
“This affords us the opportunity to watch our students mature and develop educationally from kindergarten through eighth grade and develop strong relationships with our families,” Erickson said.
Both projects are expected to be completed in early 2022.
Kerri Bartlett covers issues affecting children, families, education and government in Williamson County. She can be contacted at [email protected], 615-308-8324 or @keb1414 on Twitter.