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District 50's ninth-grade academy committee to recommend dissolution

Greenwood County School District 50’s ninth-grade academy committee, comprised of four board members, could soon meet its end, with committee members calling it ineffective and polarizing and saying it should be “put to bed.”

Committee chairperson David Trent said he will recommend to the full board of trustees that the committee be dissolved.

The committee met Thursday evening with an agenda set to discuss data, which it did, before coming to a final question, posed by Trent: What are the next steps for the committee?

The committee started well, he said. “As a board, we felt like this was a vulnerable population for a long time and that’s really what our intent was.”

“I think some things got a little hairy, a little off course a little bit, but I think at this point — at least from my perspective — we need to move on and maybe just have this committee phase out at this point,” Trent said.

Committee member Danielle Fields responded, saying: “I would certainly say at this time I don’t think our committee is effective any longer, so yes.”

The committee was tasked with studying the need for a ninth-grade academy in the district.

After the suggestion in February 2021 by board member Clay Sprouse, reported in an Index-Journal article, that the district could send all the district’s ninth-graders to Emerald High and the rest of the high school grades to Greenwood High, public perception and rumor dominated.

Emerald teachers especially — joined by parents and community members — stood up in defense of the school, emailing board members and speaking at board meetings. A smaller environment at Emerald, more extracurricular and academic options for students by having two schools and even rival gang activity were brought up in emails sent to board members as reasons why the merge should not happen.

Sprouse attempted to quash the rumors publicly, saying in May and October of 2021 that there were no plans to merge the schools.

“Shame on you,” he said in October, to whoever was spreading that a merger was a “done deal.”

Thursday evening’s meeting was a chance for the committee to discuss the data surrounding its quest, as well as the reasons for dissolving the committee.

“There are so many unknowns right now as far as the economy is concerned, as far as Greenwood County is concerned, that making some sort of move of this magnitude, I think would be highly irresponsible on the part of the board when we’ve got two high schools that are in good position financially,” Sprouse said.

He talked about the board’s need to “invest” in Emerald High School. He said it will never be an apples-to-apples comparison, but that there’s no reason the district can’t have two high schools “we’re absolutely gung-ho and proud of.”

Polarization and division were never what the committee intended, Sprouse said, the only intent was to discuss how to make students better.

He said in the future when the board has discussions of large magnitude, he hopes the board gets a little more benefit of the doubt.

Committee member Johanna Bishop said she was ready for the committee’s end.

She spoke directly to the audience, talking about the greatness she sees in the district.

“I want us to work together,” Bishop said.

“The board is a wonderful board, I’m thankful to work with these people. But I don’t want us to be focusing on this anymore. I really don’t.”

Trent said if the committee wants to dissolve, then he would make that recommendation to the school board chairperson at a future meeting.

Board of trustees chairperson Ken Cobb was in the audience. He said the agenda for the next meeting could be amended for an information item, and said a special board meeting would likely be set to consider the committee’s recommendation.

Fields rounded out the meeting with a final statement: “I do want to say, some of the most difficult and unpopular decisions this board makes may end up reaping the most benefits for the community.”


News
Blood providers warn of 'critical need' for donations

Local blood providers are drained.

Blood supplies are dwindling, and suppliers say if this drought of donations continues it could affect hospitals’ supply of life-giving blood.

The American Red Cross has called this its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. In recent weeks, the nonprofit has had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and had to limit distributions to hospitals. As much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

“We’ve been running below our needs for about two years now,” said Mandy McWherter, Red Cross Palmetto Region communications director. “We’ve had a lot of blood drives being canceled at schools and community centers that would normally host blood drives.”

McWherter said the Red Cross has seen a 10% decrease in blood donations since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Red Cross serves about 30 hospitals in the state, but also sends blood products across the country, providing about 40% of blood for medical uses nationwide.

“Some days we’re only able to meet about 75% of our hospital orders, so we’re running well below what our hospitals need,” she said.

The pandemic led to blood drive cancellations and staff shortages because of illness. According to a news release, there’s been a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges because of the pandemic.

About 70% of donation appointments remain unfilled for the next month, the release said. To make an appointment to donate blood to the Red Cross, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 800-733-2767, or use the Red Cross Blood Donor app.

Volunteers are also needed to help work at blood drives greeting, registering and providing information to donors. For information on volunteering, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

McWherter said the Red Cross is asking would-be donors to be patient, as cancellations of drives and staff illnesses have made it hard to process some requests. To incentivize donations, she said the Red Cross partnered with the NFL, and donors are entered into two drawings, one for two tickets to the Super Bowl and another for a home theater system.

The Blood Connection is also feeling the pinch.

“We are the sole blood provider for every hospital in the Upstate,” said Katie Smithson, partnership and media coordinator for The Blood Connection. “If any patient is getting blood, it’s coming from a TBC donor.”

TBC typically expects about 800 units of blood a day, Smithson said.

“If something doesn’t change soon, we’re expecting 40% less in donations than we need,” she said. “This is a critical need like we have not seen before.”

She said TBC is looking for partners to host blood drives and promote them locally. TBC provides marketing materials and brings its bloodmobile or supplies to run the drive indoors. Businesses, churches and schools are typical sites for these drives, Smithson said.

Anyone interested in hosting a blood drive may call 864-255-5003, and donors can find a way to donate near them at thebloodconnection.org/donate.

TBC has been in a 10-month drought of blood donors, coupled with COVID-related drive cancellations.

“Over the summer things got pretty dire, then it got a bit better and has wavered a little since,” Smithson said. “But this has been worse than what we’ve seen so far.”

Two donors were giving blood Thursday afternoon at Greenwood’s TBC office, 341 Old Abbeville Highway. Lisa Roach said she donates about four times a year — as does her husband. She heard about the blood shortage on the news, which is part of what brought her out Thursday.

“We care about other people, we love everyone and want to make sure we do our part,” she said.

Camden Vuocolo was donating platelets nearby. A Lander University student, Vuocolo said this was his second time donating blood.

“Honestly, I heard about the need for it and just kind of figured it would be a good thing to do,” he said.


Business
AP
Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant.

The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

In dissent, the court’s three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.

President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law.”


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