Franklin Military School (FMS) opened its doors to the students of Richmond in August 1980. The school is presently in its fourth location, housed in the Onslow Minnis Building, 701 North 37th Street, Richmond, Virginia 23223. Franklin is the first public military school in the nation and offers an alternative to the regular high school program. The Franklin program is designed to allow all students to experience a regular academic course of study while participating in a Junior Reserve Officer Training Program. There are also two other alternative and five comprehensive high schools in the Richmond Public School System.
Superintendent Richard Hunter and the Richmond School Board first began discussing the idea of a public military academy in 1976. The first step was the formation of a committee to help determine whether a public military school might help improve discipline and general attitudes of the students. The parent/student survey committee indicated that the community supported the idea. The next step was for the school board and superintendent to approach the United States Army for its views on establishing a public military school. During a four-year planning process, the idea of a military school was well received. It was decided by the school board in 1980 to convert an unoccupied school as the building for the newly established military school. The building that was selected and renovated was known as the old Franklin School.
Special attention was given to the selection of administrators, faculty and staff. The first commandant was Colonel W. Frank Combo, who had eighteen years of experience as a teacher in both public and military schools. The newly selected teaching staff consisted of experienced and veteran teachers. Two members to the teaching staff along with the two senior military instructors, that were added, had experience in the army. It was decided that the faculty of twenty three would be addressed by honorary military titles, as well as, wear military uniforms and participate in drills.
In the process of preparing for the opening of school, students had to apply and were screened before being admitted. The school opened in August of 1980 with only 130 ninth grade students and each year there after a new class of ninth graders would be added. In 1983, a complete high school program was formed consisting of grades 9-12.
Franklin Military School offers students a strict regimented military style discipline program. The program provides for individualized instruction with a teaching ration 15:1. All students are enrolled in Military Science for one class period. The academic courses accounts for the remaining classes of a child’s schedule. The students may also enroll in the following elective courses: Spanish, business and information technology, art, band and chorus. The students are encouraged to participate in other educational and cultural experiences offered by Richmond Public Schools and the community.
There is a very small transfer or dropout rate at Franklin. Most of the students feel that the educational experience offered is unique and seem to enjoy school life. Positive feelings are manifested in their participation in drill teams, athletic events, school clubs and other school and community organizations. Franklin is a natural channel for students interested in pursuing a military career.
In September, 2004, a public safety program was added to the curriculum comprising of the police and firefighters programs.