The John de la Howe School will soon begin accepting applications for the 2020-21 school year.

At Friday’s meeting of the school’s board, Principal Greg Thompson told trustees about the admissions process, which opens Oct. 1.

Potential students will have to submit an essay and visit de la Howe for an interview. They will also need two references from teachers in a science, math, engineering or technology class, one from a guidance counselor and one from an agricultural teacher or, for students at high schools that don’t have an agriculture program, a teacher with a background in agriculture.

Thompson said he hopes to have all the information on de la Howe’s website by the time the application period opens.

School will be structured with an A/B Block schedule, in which students will take each class every other day for 90 minutes. Thompson said the schedule would make it easier for students to earn an associate’s degree before they graduate.

With “us really pushing our kids getting an associates degree, that will help us in scheduling those dual credit classes,” he said.

Thompson also said that, in addition to traditional measurements of school success such as retention and graduation rates, it will track how many of its students pursue agriculture after they leave de la Howe.

Tim Keown, director of the school’s agricultural education center, has been tapping his network of resources in South Carolina’s agricultural sector to recruit students.

“We’re serving the entire state, not just McCormick County,” Keown said, “so we’re trying to get the word out that we want the top kids across the state.”

Keown said about a dozen have verbally committed thus far. They come from as close as Saluda and as far as Orangeburg.

“It’s early,” Keown said. “And we’re only going to take 80 the first year.”

Ken Durham, director of facilities, gave the board an update on student housing. There are 10 cottages on de la Howe’s campus, and Durham said his goal is to have six completely renovated by June 2020.

One is 90% complete, he said, while the others are at different stages of renovation.

Bob Coble, the school’s lobbyist, gave trustees an update on a bill that would make de la Howe a governor’s school.

S. 754 was filed in April by Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, chair of the state Senate’s education committee, where it currently sits, waiting to be taken up again when the next legislative session begins in January.

“Senators and House members will obviously have questions,” Coble said. “There will obviously be questions and scrutiny, how will it be done, will it be successful. There will be a lot of work to do.”

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.