After 45 years of no high school classes being taught in Florence, the fate of the community’s school building remains mired in uncertainty.
County officials are eyeing a grant to help with the cost of demolishing the dilapidated former school building, but the application would require several conditions to be met.
Florence Historical Society would have to approve tearing down the building, but president Bob Harris said he’ll oppose demolition.
“I think there’s a better solution for a good building,” Harris said. “If you want to find a grant so you can find a good use for it, I’d be in support of that.”
He and his wife, Margaret Harris, both graduated from Florence High School in 1958, and he said although a previous owner allowed the building to deteriorate until its roof collapsed, enough useful portions remain.
“The high school building in Marion that they are using is not as good as this building,” Harris said. “The inside of the Marion high school is framed and this building is concrete.”
Harris regrets that school consolidation with Marion in 1971 cost Florence its high school, then its junior high school, and 22 jobs.
Additionally, the grant application needs to say what the future use of the property will be. Commissioner Dan Holub said he thought developing the land into a veterans’ memorial “would be a big seller.”
“We already have a veterans’ memorial on Main St.,” Florence city clerk Janet Robinson said.
“We’d probably have to deed it back,” Spencer said.
Florence mayor Bob Gayle said he doubted Florence residents would put up much resistance if a good use could be found for the land, but he doesn’t know what a good use would be.
“It’s in irretrievably bad condition,” Gayle said. “I guess the county would have to entertain some people’s ideas.”
County Clerk Tina Spencer told commissioners at a special meeting last week that it will be easier to get the CDBG grant if the demolition costs exceed $100,000, and if the property belongs to the city of Florence.
Florence city council would have to agree to accept the deed to the building, Gayle said.
A city-owned building on one corner of the campus is being converted to house an after-school program operated by a Florence church. Having a children’s program in such close proximity to the hazardous building has created a sense of urgency for the county to do something about the old school.