In January 2019, the Franklin Special School District (FSSD) approved a strategic plan with several capital improvement goals to be achieved by 2024. The three biggest projects are construction of a performing arts center, a new gymnasium for Poplar Grove Elementary School and a new ball diamond complex in partnership with the City of Franklin.
FSSD Performing Arts Center
The grand opening of the FSSD Performing Arts Center took place on May 20, making it the first capital project in the strategic plan to be completed. The 485-seat district-wide auditorium was the venue for opening day for teachers on August 1.
Concerts, plays, school awards and other district activities will take place at the approximately $16 million, 34,400 square foot facility. The center is located at the north end of Poplar Grove Middle School. It contains a multipurpose stage, a fly loft, a green room, technical spaces and changing rooms.
“Once the school system knows how much the center will be used by the school system,” said FSSD Schools Director David Snowden, we will open up time for the community.
The performance center will provide more opportunities for the district to focus on the whole child. The district has long known the importance of a well-rounded curriculum, and in the 1990s began offering art and music lessons to all students.
A Legacy Gallery with an interactive exhibit focusing on the school district’s 116-year history is also housed in the new facility. The 650 square foot space includes exhibits of old desks, interviews with former professors and historic photographs.
“The Gallery will tell the story of where we’ve been,” Snowden added.
Poplar Grove Elementary School Gymnasium
After a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, members of the community, past and current students, former and current faculty, staff, and school board members also toured the new gymnasium facilities in May.
The much-needed $9.2 million gymnasium space will provide additional teaching space for physical education teachers, as well as space to play and practice basketball and volleyball . The new 22,800 square foot gymnasium will have new locker rooms and bleachers for 480 people.
Prior to the construction of the new gymnasium, there were often scheduling conflicts with the elementary school, which usually meant that younger children had to settle for less desirable facilities. While the new gymnasium will primarily serve the elementary school, the locker rooms will be connected to the current gymnasium, so college sports teams will also be able to use them.
New sports ground complex
According to Snowden, the proposed $5.4 million sports field complex will be built in cooperation with the City of Franklin and will be completed in fall 2022 for use in spring 2023. It will be located between Freedom Middle School and Poplar Grove Schools on Hwy 96 West. .
The new facilities will include a clubhouse, two 325-foot softball fields, concession areas, batting cages and the city’s first LED lighting system. There will also be walking trails providing opportunities for community recreation. The new park will replace the old fields.
An agreement between Franklin Parks and Recreation and FSSD splits costs between the two entities, with the school system paying approximately $3 million.
When complete, it will be four years since preliminary planning for the ballparks began. The process began with a collection of community wants and needs, followed by an assessment of site improvements, infrastructure, storm water management, electrical, water and sewer needs.
When completed, the facility will provide space for ball games, team practices, tournaments and events.