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KCSD students could have ‘unequal’ semesters

Posted: December 4, 2017 4:12 p.m.
Updated: December 5, 2017 1:00 a.m.

During the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees’ Nov. 28 meeting, representatives from the district’s calendar committee brought forward a school calendar proposal that would see the first semester (Fall 2018) be shorter than the second semester (Spring 2019).

The idea is to make sure the fall semester ends before students take their winter break. The school year would end May 31, 2019, with graduation the following day, on Saturday, June 1, 2019. The fall semester would have 86 days; the spring semester, 94.

KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd and three representatives from the 26-member calendar committee -- Pine Tree Hill Elementary School Principal Melissa Royalty, Blaney Elementary School teacher Nicole Gardner and 2017 KCSD Teacher of the Year and Applied Technology Education Campus Health Science instructor Brooke Bradshaw -- made the Nov. 28 presentation. They said the proposed calendar, which all committee members unanimously agreed on:

• meets the state mandate not to start the school year prior to the third Monday of August (Aug. 20, 2018);

• includes 180 mandated instructional days, plus 10 teachers days (three of which will be professional development days);

• includes July 4 (2018), Labor Day (2018) and Martin Luther King Jr. Day (2019) holidays;

• includes three state-mandated inclement weather make-up days;

• includes a three-day Thanksgiving break (Nov. 21-23, 2018), 10-day winter break (Dec. 4, 2018 - Jan. 7, 2019) and five-day spring break (April 15-22, 2019);

• provides a holiday on Memorial Day 2019;

• includes three early dismissal days to allow teachers to have common planning; and

• allows first-semester high school courses to finish before Christmas break so they are not expected to take exams when they return in January.

Bradshaw said committee members understand that if there is inclement weather during the first semester where students to miss school, they would have to revisit the calendar to make modifications.

“If we do have inclement weather and our professional development is taken, teachers will stay after school to make up that time,” Gardner added.

Trustee Derrick Proctor said that once the board passes a calendar for 2018-19, he doesn’t want to see it changed.

“After what happened last year, I’m not in favor of changing the calendar once it’s in there. It causes too much confusion,” Proctor said. “I can see changing and having to say, ‘OK, we’ll have to take three or four days in that next one just to even out semesters,’ but you’ve already got your days in here for make-up days, so I want a clear understanding to what you’re talking about when you talk about adjusting the calendar.”

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said that if inclement weather forces school closures during the first semester, the district would likely push the end of that semester into January, rather than “mess” with scheduled teacher work and professional development days.

Morgan also said he is still thinking about pushing the idea of getting the South Carolina General Assembly to allow for flexibility about the start of school years only when a district proposes to do so in order to get the first 90 days of school in before the winter break.

Proctor said that if the district issued a new calendar before the legislature approved Morgan’s idea, they would not want to see the calendar changed due to the confusion he had mentioned earlier. Trustee Todd McDonald said adjustments made last year played havoc with family and employee vacations. Proctor agreed.

“People were told they could have it and then they were told they couldn’t,” Proctor said, referring to changes at the beginning of the current school year, which was adjusted to take advantage of a special solar eclipse provision to start school earlier by the legislature. “They had to use that as their work days and it was not right. Once we vote for this, I’m not in favor of changing it.”

Morgan said even if the district did not take advantage of it for 2018-19, such a legislative change could prove useful in planning future district calendars.

In other business during the Nov. 28 meeting:

• trustees thanked INVISTA for its continuing support of the KC Robotics team;

• the board received an update on referenda-related construction projects, including news that groundbreaking for the new Applied Technology Education Campus will be at 10 a.m. Dec. 15; and

• Morgan led a short discussion on possible legislative positions the board could take to the county’s legislative delegation.

The board will meet only once in December, at 6 p.m. Dec. 12, which is the second Tuesday of month. The board normally meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Trustees will take up a vote on the proposed 2018-19 school year calendar at the Dec. 12 meeting.

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