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2017-2018 school year to start Aug. 17

2018 KCSD graduations set for June 2

Posted: March 9, 2017 5:19 p.m.
Updated: March 10, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Students will start school this fall a little earlier than originally planned -- Thursday, Aug. 17, to be exact.

In late February, the S.C. General Assembly passed a resolution allowing school districts across the state the option of starting the 2017-18 school year on Aug. 17 instead of the third Monday day in August (Aug. 21) in order “to capitalize on the potential educational value” of a solar eclipse taking place on that third Monday.

After a short briefing from Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd during its meeting Tuesday night, the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees voted 7-0 to start next school year on Aug. 17. Trustees Derrick Proctor and Don Copley did not attend the meeting.

Aug. 17 will be a full day for students, as will Aug. 18. However, Aug. 21 will be a half-day for students; the district will start dismissing students that day no later than 11:30 a.m., well before the approximately 2:30 p.m. eclipse. Morgan said the district did not want to have situations where students could accidentally be harmed by additional traffic or watching the eclipse as part of school activities. Teachers would use the remainder of Aug. 21 for further preparation for the school year.

Byrd said while the two additional school days are not enough to end the first semester before Christmas break, they do provide some advantages.

“In essence … we could add a professional development day on October 23rd,” Byrd said. “You can see that would make it a long weekend for families there in the beginning of the first semester. Just a reminder that October the 19th, a Thursday, would be a regular school day with parent-teacher conferences in the afternoon hours, from 3 to 7 p.m. Students would not attend on Friday and teachers would have morning hours for conferences with families who want to come in that morning; then they’d be able to leave with a half-day.”

In addition to the Oct. 23 professional development day, the new version of the calendar will also make Good Friday (March 30, 2018) a holiday and April 9, 2018 -- the Monday after spring break -- a “stand-alone” weather day that is not tied to a teacher workday.

Graduations are set for Saturday, June 2, 2018. That is a week after this year’s graduation date, set for March 27, ahead of Memorial Day.

Earlier in the meeting, Lugoff-Elgin Middle School English teacher Shanna Gilmer, who is secretary of the school’s improvement council and the council’s chair, Tammy Small, suggested the district start the new school year on Aug. 22.

Robert Farmer also spoke during public forum in support of a proposed district policy dress code change that would strike the sentence “unnatural hair colors will not be permitted.” Trustees will vote on that matter at a later meeting. They will also vote at a later time to adopt a policy change recommendation to have Veterans Day activities “on the school day immediately preceding Veterans Day” if schools are closed on the holiday.

Also Tuesday, KCSD Executive Director of Operations Billy Smith provided another update on referenda construction projects.

Smith said he met Tuesday with contractors concerning pre-construction work at North Central Middle School’s additions and North Central High School’s renovations. He said the district also hopes to have bid documents ready for Mt. Pisgah Elementary School’s re-roofing project soon. Smith said the district is also working on the bid documents for re-roofing at Lugoff-Elgin High School. The first pre-construction meeting for the new Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC) was scheduled to take place the next day, Wednesday. An entirely new ATEC is planned for the Central Carolina Technical College/Kershaw County Economic Development campus at I-20 Exit 98. Smith said the ATEC site is currently going through due diligence and that surveys and topography work there has been completed.

Smith confirmed groundbreaking for the new Camden, Lugoff and Wateree elementary schools will have to be pushed back from their original June 2018 dates. He said due diligence revealed the district could realize cost savings from using load-bearing masonry instead of a steel frame and sheetrock in the construction of the schools.

“The problem is we have to get our structural engineers to redesign and redraw the schools,” Smith said, which will contribute to moving the groundbreakings.

Smith also confirmed that after further discussion with Wateree Elementary School (WES) stakeholders and architects, the district has decided not to construct the school has a two-story structure. The new Camden and Lugoff elementary schools are still slated to be two-story buildings.

“We’ve looked at it, we’ve moved that puzzle piece all around that piece of property and the best place for us to put it economically … is atop the four ball fields,” Smith said.

Morgan said he has told county parks and recreation officials the district will try to leverage its resources to reclaim the land the current WES sits on so the county could re-use it. Smith also said it is the administration’s recommendation to leave WES’ multipurpose room intact so the county can use it as well.

Smith also said that geotechnical work will be performed at Lugoff and Wateree elementary schools this weekend and next week.

Morgan also used Tuesday night to bring forward a proposal from Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter to have the school district take over funding of three school resource officers (SROs) during the next three years. Morgan said there are currently 11 SROs in the district, one of whom the district began funding during the current school year. He said Carpenter is also proposing for the city of Camden to take over funding of the three SROs at schools inside the city limits.

“The county is not getting the legal amount of aid to localities that they’re supposed to get … from the state,” Morgan said. “I will say, we’re getting hit harder in terms of them not paying the base student cost at the legal limit. So, basically, we’ve been kind of backed into a corner … by state funding.”

Morgan also reported that a S.C. House Appropriations Committee recommendation to raise the base student cost by $150 is actually only for $50. He also said he will make a presentation at the board’s next meeting, March 21, on growth in Kershaw County and how to fund the district’s ability to service that growth.

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