Adam Rich was sworn in as a member of Abbeville County School District’s board on Tuesday. The state Department of Transportation engineer stood up while Board Chairman James Tisdale swore him in.

Rich ran unopposed for Seat 7 to fill the remained of Mark Peeler’s term. The seat represents Due West, Cold Springs and Keowee.

Superintendent Mason Gary announced that the district received contingent approval from the state Department of Education on its back to school reopening plan. The plan gives students the option to either attend school five days a week for in-person learning or participate in iTECH Academy. The cutoff date to enroll in iTECH Academy is Friday, and 536 students have registered so far, Matt Kimsey, the district’s technology director, said.

Kimsey assured the board that the district has enough devices for students who want to participate in iTECH Academy at the start of school, but he added how there wouldn’t have been enough if the district included a hybrid model option in its reopening plan. The district is working with WCTEL to provide wired internet service to families who want their child to participate in iTECH Academy but can’t, he said. Also, the district is working on finding out which students qualify for free internet so emails will be sent out to families this week about this.

Having been in Abbeville for two weeks now, Gary brought up two facility issues that he noticed so far from touring a couple of the schools. He noticed how open and vulnerable some of the schools are, and problems with the fire alarms. He addressed these two issues at the meeting, but he said he wanted to be transparent in creating a plan to fix them and others that come up in the future.

“I don’t want to be in the (put out) fire business, I want to be in the plan business,” he added.

Gary wants to make a comprehensive list of facility problems after he receives input from the board and principals. Once he creates the list, he said the district will make a plan of action so it isn’t guessing what it’s going to do and instead it’s planning for what it’s doing. He mentioned to the board about getting an investment grant audit, which would not cost the district any money and would help figure out exactly how much savings the district can generate in a year. He said the savings would pay for a new commitment toward upgrading facilities.

Gary also discussed how during a meeting with superintendents from across South Carolina, state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said if COVID-19 infects 20% of a district’s student population, the district will have to shut down its schools.

“They told us to treat it just how you would treat the flu,” Gary said.

Board member Buster Taylor said the district almost had to shut down its schools in December because 19% of the student population had the flu.

Gary also said the state Department of Education’s decision to increase bus capacity from 50% to 67% was a favorable move to schools reopening.

Contact reporter Jonathan Limehouse at 864-943-5644 or follow him on Twitter @jon_limehouse.