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School board examines facility use policy

Posted: September 9, 2011 4:10 p.m.
Updated: September 12, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Thanks to a recent unanimous vote by the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees, two Columbia-based for-profit, after-school programs are able to use multipurpose rooms at Blaney and Doby’s Mill elementary schools at reduced rates.

This is the second year the board approved a fee waiver, or reduction, for Genova Family Karate. This year, the board also approved a waiver for The Tumble Tree, an after-school cheerleading, tumble and dance program.

Before trustees cast their votes at the board’s Sept. 6 meeting, however, several members said they needed to consider drafting a new policy regarding for-profit businesses getting reduced fees when using Kershaw County School District (KCSD) facilities.

“I’ve said this the last few years … I still have trouble with a for-profit entity getting a discount rate at our schools,” Chairman Joey Dorton said.

Vice Chairman Mara Jones said that while she commends organizations from Columbia for wanting to come into Kershaw County to provide a service to local students, she would also like for the school district to make an effort to bring local vendors into KCSD schools.

“I would love to see us try and support some of our local businesses. I don’t disagree that you have to go out and market it, but sometimes … it’s difficult to build a small program and go out and market it, too,” Jones said in response to another trustee’s comment that local businesses should also be aggressive enough to apply for the usage of the facilities against the out-of-town businesses.

Dorton suggested the district consider putting out request for proposals (RFPs) for services at the schools, but Jones said that if it did so, it should also consider putting them out at schools in the North Central area.

KCSD Director of Operations Billy Smith said one thing that concerned him is a school board policy that says the district is “not supposed to use facilities for outside folks to profit.”

According to the KCSD Policy KF regarding community use of school facilities, KCSD facilities are to be made available only to community organizations or associations not operating for a profit, non-profit corporations and governmental bodies. The policy also states a private or corporate business can use its facilities only when the “activity is considered a desired part of the school curriculum, the school does not offer the activity and the activity is beneficial to school-aged children.”

Later in the meeting, Jones said the school district would also have to think about how it can make something like RFPs and bids for services at schools “equal for all of the kids” in the school district, particularly students who attend schools in the North Central area of the county.

“And we have these expensive facilities -- and we always used to tell everybody to come in and use them for free -- but we’re ultimately having to pay the cost for them,” she said. “We’ve got to make a decision about do we want to keep them up, or do we want to just open it up and have everybody come in. There’s a lot of dynamics going on there that needs to be addressed.”

The board ultimately voted to charge a reduced fee of $75 per session to both Genova Family Karate and The Tumble Tree. Classes offered by both programs last around 45 minutes, and scholarships are provided to students.

Also at the Sept. 6 meeting, KCSD Executive Director for Secondary Education Dr. Agnes Slayman said the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Dual Credit Enrollment classes has risen during the past several years.

In the 2008-2009 academic year, 187 students were enrolled in AP classes while 241 were enrolled in dual credit classes. Last year, 265 students were enrolled in AP classes and 290 students were enrolled in dual credit classes.

“As you can see, we did not see where there would be a great disparity and that (dual enrollment classes) would kill the Advanced Placement program. Quite the opposite is true. We’ve grown both programs and we’ve opened up opportunities for our kids,” she said.

Also, the board approved the construction of a walkway to connect Jackson School in east Camden with an adjoining neighborhood -- in an effort to provide a safe way for students to walk and ride their bicycles to school without having to use U.S. 1. The cost of this project is estimated at $12,500 and will be funded with remaining Jackson School Installment Purchase Plan (IPP) funds.

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