Greenwood County School District 50 trustees have a big decision on their hands.
The board is scheduled to vote in November on whether to implement a modified school schedule, which would shorten summer break but build in breaks throughout the year, maintaining a 180-day calendar. If trustees vote for the proposal, which is typically referred to as year-round school, the district is required to go through the state Department of Education’s waiver process. If a waiver is granted, the effect of the proposal could affect other institutions and residents, aside from public schools and county legislators.
The communitySo far, the district has had two community board meetings discussing the modified calendar, with another meeting scheduled Monday.
District 50 provided surveys to community members directly affected by the change, such as students and parents, so their opinions on the issue could be heard. During Thursday’s Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce’s Morning Blend, Superintendent Steve Glenn said 2,600 surveys were filled out and 1,539 of them contained positive feedback in regards to the schedule change.
The reception of the schedule shift has varied depending on who you ask. Some issues that have arose concerning the new schedule are: dual enrollment students attending an excess amount of school days, parents having to reschedule vacations and other planned yearly commitments, separated parents having to balance time with their children in correspondence with the new calendar and students who work summer jobs not being allotted the same amount of time to work as they would during a traditional calendar’s summer break. While the district hasn’t offered concrete solutions to all these issues, Glenn has acknowledged them at recent trustee meetings.
Glenn has also been upfront about the modified schedule not merely being a break for students, but an opportunity for remediation throughout the school year.
“The remediation here is key, the remediation and the prevention of the summer slide,” Glenn said during Morning Blend.
Other pros Glenn and community members have discussed include: decrease in teacher and student fatigue, mental health benefits for students and a social break for students to allow them to escape from the social constructs of being in school every week.
On the contrary, if the board votes against the proposal, some community members brainstormed other solutions for remediation, for instance: more after-school programs and building an after-school homework center.
private institutionsNot a lot of discussion has been made about how day care and private schools fit into this proposed schedule change.
Cambridge Academy Head of School Lori Anne Hagood isn’t opposed to the modified schedule, but Cambridge has been on a traditional calendar for 50 years and she doesn’t see a need to change it based on the school’s current “above average test scores.” Palmetto Christian Academy interim Head of School Dan Dickerson is in “wait and see mode” when it comes to the proposal. Greenwood Christian Marketing Director Angel McAllister acknowledged “the board is aware of the proposal, but no decision has been made yet.”
Sunshine House’s Grace St. location’s center director, Taylor Long, thinks the modified calendar would be a “wonderful idea,” and it would “give kids a break to recharge.”
“I couldn’t imagine having to do what the kids are having to do nowadays, so imagine having to do that all year round and not having those breaks like they’re inquiring about throughout the year,” Long said.
Long is mindful that the day care would have to accommodate students’ and parents’ schedules if the modified calendar is put in place.
“They have to still work those two weeks, we would just become more flexible,” she said.
She also mentioned how the day care would conduct their school-age programs during the two-week break, and those programs would become full days so “that way parents have somewhere to take their children while they’re still having to work.”
Other districtsGreenwood County School District 51 Superintendent Fay Sprouse said she “thinks it’s certainly worthy of consideration.”
Districts 50, 51 and 52 share the Russell Technology Center, and Sprouse acknowledges her district “will need to consider” the board’s decision on the matter because of their sharing of the building. She’s also heard some of the concerns Greenwood residents have voiced thus far, including dual credit students and parents having to share custody of their children during the summer and throughout the school year.
“If they move forward, and we move forward, those are things that we have to work through,” Sprouse said.
District 52 Superintendent Rex Ward is favorable to the proposal as well. He’s fond of the kids getting a break every nine weeks.
“It lets them relax and be kids, and then come back and be fresh,” Ward said.
McCormick County Superintendent Betty Bagley is in the midst of transitioning their county’s school calendar to a modified format. Schools recently returned from break — teachers returned on Oct. 15 and students returned Oct. 16.
“The break was perfect for that fatigue that was beginning to set in October,” Bagley said. “Then we came back after the break. Teachers told me it wasn’t hard at all to bring them back into the study habits, and the two-week delay was much easier to overcome than a longer break.”
A lot of Greenwood community members are hesitant about implementing a modified calendar because of how it in part stemmed from McCormick’s calendar, which they’ve just incorporated this school year.
“We’re not idolizing McCormick,” Glenn said. “If you see something that you feel like is going to be effective in your place and that’s going to help your kids, I don’t care where it came from, that’s putting the ego in front of doing what’s best for your students.”
Traditional or modified, Glenn and District 50 are comprehensive that a change has to be made.
“We’ve got to get better, we owe that to our children of this district,” he said.