Will Greenwood County School District 50 students be attending classes in July?
Shifting to a modified academic calendar is a possibility as early as the start of the 2020-21 school year, but not before members of the public and trustees have a say.
“Nobody has voted on this. It’s not been written in stone,” Superintendent Steve Glenn said. “We’re not performing well, and that’s not a secret. We’ve got to come up with something that will help us.”
Under a draft proposal to be made public Oct. 21, school could begin as early as July 23, running through June 4 with 12 scheduled “remediation days” built into the rotation that can be used to help students in need of more intensive instruction.
Glenn, who was hired in July to replace Darrell Johnson, said he’s open to any idea that will help boost student achievement. State report cards issued earlier this month showed 36.4% of District 50’s 8,855 pupils failing to meet expectations on the English language portion of the SC READY assessment test, while 33.7% of students finished below the state average in mathematics.
Four of the district’s 13 schools received a “below average” rating, with nine others at “average.”
“Instead of a kid being behind for a whole year, hopefully, we can get them caught up in what they missed in nine weeks,” Glenn said. “Our teachers are still only working 190 days, our students are still only going 180 days and you still have six or seven weeks off in the summer. It’s not year-round.”
On Oct. 21, the district’s Board of Trustees will open talks on the issue, and public forums are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 22 and 8 a.m. Oct. 24. All sessions are live-streamed and archived on the district’s website.
Glenn said a formal vote on whether to switch calendars isn’t expected until November or December.
“I am not stream rolling this. I want people’s feedback,” Glenn said. “The whole point was, poke holes in this, show me where it’s not good for our kids and if it’s not, we’ll stop walking down this road. If this is something that we don’t feel like we can do, then we scrap it and we’ll make that traditional schedule like we’ve always done.”
The adjusted calendar, as proposed, sets winter break from Dec. 21 through Jan. 8. An “intercession” would be created for students in need of more help, putting them back in school from Jan. 5.
“I can’t stand here and tell you it’s going to fix our problem with performance, but if we’re looking at trying to prevent teacher fatigue and student fatigue, this is a pretty good place to start,” Glenn said. “It jumps out at me real quick that we’ve got an opportunity to remediate our kids year-round, and to me, that’s No. 1.”
Glenn has already met with teachers, PTOs and school improvement councils to talk about the concept, receiving “excellent feedback” from those sessions, said Johnathan Graves, the district’s head of communications.
Glenn said district officials have also spent time speaking with McCormick Superintendent Betty Bagley.
In March, trustees in McCormick’s school district voted to implement a year-round calendar that includes nine weeks of instruction followed by a two-week break, time that could be used either for vacation or remediation.
“You look at the present calendar, it’s a long haul before there’s a break,” Bagley said during a March presentation outlining the schedule change. “Teaching is hard work (and) driving a bus is hard work. ... It gives those breaks, to where you are renewed, and you’re ready to come back to school.”
Glenn said he has similar feelings.
“We’ve got to find a way to keep them (students) with us, as much as we possibly can, and this helps us do that,” he said. “This is not just on a whim. We’ve been down to talk to Ms. Bagley in McCormick. You can find positive, and you can find negatives, it’s just how you want to spin it.”
The community meetings are set for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 22 and 8 a.m. on Oct. 24 at the Genesis Education Center.