Florence changes school calendar
by The Press and Standard | September 27, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: September 26, 2018 at 9:08 am
The members of Colleton County School Board signed off on changes to the school calendar during the Sept. 18 meeting to address the loss of four school days to Hurricane Florence and next year’s graduation.
Colleton County School District Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster explained to the board that a traditional semester encompasses 90 school days.
In order to have the first semester end before the school district goes on Christmas break, the school district’s first semester was set at 84 days.
Closing schools from Sept. 11-14 because of Hurricane Florence took the days in the first semester brought the number of days down to 80.
Dr. Foster already took the Sept. 20 early dismissal day set to handle progress reports and made it a full day of classes. He said the move was made to try and recapture some of the instructional time.
He said the current plan to try and recapture the days will have the school district using the three inclement weather make-up days the school district had assigned on Nov. 5, March 25 and April 19.
The district was required by the state to build three inclement weather make-up days into the calendar.
Dr. Foster told the board that he had reservations about using all three state-mandated inclement weather days so early in the school year, because the school district could face another weather-related disruption of classes.
Following the meeting, should bad weather force the closing of schools again this school year, the school board has the option to waive up to three school days because of weather. If those three days are used up, he added, the school district could petition the state school board to waive three more days.
During his time as superintendent, Foster said, the school district has never lost nine days to bad weather. It has, he added, lost eight days.
The initial district calendar also had no classes on Oct. 19. The day was to be used as a district professional development day.
The new plan is to postpone the district professional development day and conduct a full day of classes to make up that fourth day lost to Florence.
The district professional day lost to Hurricane Florence will instead be conducted at the end of the school year.
The teaching staff was set to end the school year with a workday on June 10. Now the professional day will be held June 10 and the teacher workday will be on June 11.
On Sept. 10, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an evacuation order for all the coastal South Carolina counties as Hurricane Florence was projected to make landfall in South or North Carolina. At the same time, he ordered the school systems in all those counties to close for the rest of the week.
Then on Sept. 11, McMaster lifted the evacuation order for all of Beaufort and Jasper counties. In Colleton County, the evacuation order was lifted for everything but Edisto Beach.
He followed the evacuation order with an amendment of the school closing order, allowing Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton County to reopen its schools.
Colleton County school officials on Sept. 11 decided to remain closed for the rest of the week. A press release issued by Dr. Foster said the schools would remain closed the rest of the week “to allow students, staff and their families time to prepare for the possible impact of Hurricane Florence in our area.”
Another factor in the decision was the Colleton County Emergency Management Division of Colleton County Fire-Rescue needed to continue to operate an emergency shelter at Colleton High School. School officials had concerns about reopening the high school for classes while it was being used as an emergency shelter.
School board members said they had heard some complaints about schools being closed for the four days, but they were unanimous in their support of the decision and congratulated the school district’s administration and support staff for their work during the week the county was preparing for a possible visit from Florence.
Assistant Superintendent Cliff Warren told school board members that he wanted to thank the employees charged with handling district operations. When bad weather closes schools, the students and teaching staff stay at home “but in operations, they have to run in high gear.”
When the original school calendar was designed, no date for graduation was set.
Dr. Foster explained that school officials had postponed setting a graduation date until they could get feedback on how the new Friday night graduation ceremony was received.
Based on the comments, Dr. Foster told the board, it was decided to schedule the graduation for the evening of June 7 at the high school stadium.
In case of inclement weather, he added, the ceremony will be held on June 8 at the stadium. If weather is still a factor, the graduation will be moved indoors at the high school.
It was also decided to stick with the shortened version of graduation, Dr. Foster said.
New Colleton County High School Principal Maurice Cannon, Dr. Foster added, recommended some changes to the seniors’ awards night, an altering of the format to give students more recognition.
Board members signed off on the changes.