Franklin Road Academy (FRA) is a private, college preparatory, co-educational, Christian school for students in grades Pre-K3-12. FRA was founded in 1971 as a segregation academy in response to the court order desegregation of public schools.
Establishment as a segregation academy
In 1980, only one of Franklin Road’s 745 students was black. The then headmaster, Bill Bradshaw, recalled that, in 1970 “Escape from bussing was probably definitely a factor” in the school’s early growth, but he denied that the school was established to avoid desegregation.
Franklin Road Academy was founded in 1971 in coordination with First Christian Church. In order to build the school, over $300,000 in mortgage bonds were sold to church members, parents, and the community at large.
With construction still ongoing, Bill Bradshaw, Head of Franklin Road Academy, tested students in the office of Howell Hardware Store on Twelfth Avenue. Soon after completion of the new building, students began classes on September 7, 1971.
The next school year, many more students applied for enrollment at FRA. In order to meet the demand, Sunday School rooms at a nearby church, Brentwood Methodist Church were leased. Students were ferried between the two buildings, First Christian Church and Brentwood Methodist Church (at the time this was at the corner of Church Street and Franklin Pike, in an old six door limousine.
In 1973, FRA added additional classrooms and Lower School library. This addition was built not only through monetary donations, but also through gifts in-kind, such as labor, materials, and "know how" (such as plumbing, brick laying, electrical, etc.). In that same year, FRA also received approval from the Tennessee Department of Education and became accredited by the now non-existent Mid-South Association of Independent Schools.
In 1975, FRA decided to establish a high school. The first class of 9th graders were housed in a building known as the Burke House. The following year, additional land was purchased in order to construct a formal high school building. In the Fall of 1976, both 9th and 10th graders began in the new building despite the lack of a fully completed roof. Each year, an additional grade was added until, in 1979, a class of 40 12th graders graduated from Franklin Road Academy.
In 1981, Bill Bradshaw retired and was replaced as Head of School by William L. Campbell.
On June 3, 1982, Franklin Road Academy became its own separate organization incorporated under the name Franklin Road Academy, Inc., thereby achieving its goal to become an independent, denominational, Christian, co-educational, college-preparatory school. Following its incorporation, FRA received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
In 1983, an anonymous donor provided funds to add a second floor to the high school for the creation of a middle school. Four years later, FRA raised $3 million through a capital campaign for the construction of a separate lower school (conventionally known as an elementary school). In 1988, the new lower school was dedicated as Danner Hall.
In 1994, the George A. Volkert Athletic Complex was completed. Referred to as "The Hill" by students and faculty, the complex houses a Football stadium, Baseball stadium, Tennis courts, a track, and a Softball field. During the 1990s FRA's middle school partnered with IBM to give students laptop computers. This was a ground breaking project, as laptops were relatively new at the time, and were very rarely used outside of the business sector. However, the project became a burden on IBM and the school, so it was ended several years later.
In 1999, FRA completed a $7 million middle school and fine arts building. The 3 story building houses approximately 300 students grades 5th through 8th in one building. The same building also features a state-of-the-art theatre as well as 2 art rooms,a band room, a choir room, 4 practice rooms with pianos, and a dance studio.
In order to bolster its image as a "diverse" school, Franklin Road Academy decided in 2000 to change the school mascot to a Panther. Its previous mascot, the Rebels, along with its previous logo that included elements of the Confederate Flag, was decided to be politically incorrect and insensitive to African-Americans due to its connotations to the Civil War and slavery. Although many students initially disliked the change, the panther has become accepted by the majority of students.
In 2001 in an effort to create a friendly rivalry among students, FRA instituted a high school-wide competition dubbed Alpha-Omega whereby the high school students were split into two teams, the Alphas and the Omegas. The two teams compete in a year-long competition with events ranging from Basketball and Powderpuff Football to Lip-Sync and Homecoming skits. Points are awarded to the winning team for each event. The year-end competition, called May Day, is an all day event with Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Three-Legged races, and many other games. The event culminates in the awarding of the trophy to team with the most points. Currently, the Alphas are the reigning champions, although the omegas have an overwhelming lead in the overall series.
Starting in 2005, Franklin Road Academy began a roll out of Tablet PCs to every high school student. The tablets, which are purchased by the students in grades 7-12, allow for classes such as Math, Science, English, and Music (Band and Choir) to conduct classes with greater ease. The school also reviews the students information on personal websites such as Facebook and Myspace and punishes them for conduct not related to the school. FRA expanded its Tablet PC Program to include 7th and 8th grades in 2006. As of 2017, students in grades 5-8 use iPads purchased individually from FRA, while the Tablet PC Program continues in the Upper School.
In January 2006, FRA broke ground on its new South campus expansion. The expansion was made possible through the purchase of the First Christian Church property. The purchase of the land increased FRA's campus to a total of 55 acres (220,000 m2). The plan for the property was to construct a Math and Science building with state-of-the-art science labs and classrooms, a new Library and Technology center, the renovation of the original high school, and the renovation of the classrooms in the First Christian Church building. The plan separates the 5 major disciplines (English, History, Math, Science, and Foreign Language) into three separate buildings. The English and History departments are housed in the Humanities Building (the original high school). The Math and Science departments are housed in the aforementioned Math and Science Building. The Foreign Language department is housed in the South Campus building (the First Christian Church building which housed students in the early days of FRA). These three buildings, along with the Library and Technology center open onto a central "quad" (short for quadrangle). Moving the books into the new Library and Technology Center from the old library took a total of 4 days and the involvement of approximately 600 students.
The total cost of the expansion, including the purchase of the First Christian Church property, was approximately $12 million. In order to raise money for the expansion, and to bring more attention to the school Country Music star Alan Jackson donated his 2005 Ford GT to be given away in a raffle.
The renovation and expansion of the high school facilities allowed FRA to dramatically upgrade its technological capabilities. With the expansion came campus-wide Wi-Fi, an intercom system in the high school, the implementation of a campus-wide VoIP system, networked projectors in every room, and keypad enabled exterior doors for greater security. Over 32,000 feet (9,800 m) of networking cable was used in the expansion/renovation of the high school.
- Will Wade, Head Basketball Coach of the Louisiana State University (LSU) men's basketball team
- Adair Tishler, Actress most famous for her role as Molly Walker in "Heroes"
- Mason Mingus, stock car racing driver
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