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Dr. Choates recommends Sumter County Schools offer hybrid educational approach for third nine weeks

By: Tracy K. Hall

The Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) met for the November Work Session on Monday, November 10th. All board members were present and newly elected officials were present to observe.

Dr. Choates will be recommending Sumter County Schools (SCS) provide a hybrid approach to education. The offerings will be for a student to continue in the virtual format as they have been for the first half of the year, or to attend classes in the traditional face to face manner. Dr. Choates surveyed both parents and staff on their preferences for the next term and the results came back remarkably similar. Surveys showed 30.4% wanted a hybrid option, 15.6% wanted a face to face option and 54% wanted to remain in the virtual format. With numbers indicating the community wanted a traditional option, Dr. Choates researched the lessons learned from other schools and will be able to ensure the SCS is ready to offer both options. Dr. Choates, as well as the BOE, agree that teachers should not be “double worked” in that they would have to provide face to face as well as virtual instruction. The teachers, as well as the families, would get to choose the format they prefer, however once the decision in made, the teacher and family will be committed to their choice. Additionally, Dr. Choates recommends students who choose to be involved with athletics be required to use face to face method. The BOE had serval questions to ensure the preparedness of SCS to offer both these options. The questions covered everything from busing to nutrition programs. Dr. Choates assured the BOE that once families and teachers picked which format they prefer he would be able to meet the needs of all involved. Dr. Choates states, “we got to get the numbers to make a good strong plan. We will be prepared, I promise you.” After further discussion, the BOE will be prepared to take on the vote at the regular meeting on Thursday Nov. 12th.

In other action of the evening, a construction update was given. The movement on the new high school and college and career academy is on track and if weather continues to be favorable, there should be no setbacks. The BOE will have to take a vote on landscaping options at the regular meeting on Thursday. The BOE will also be taking a vote on signage for the school that evening as well. Meda Krenson, being an experienced architect, asked several probing questions into materials to be used.

Nutrition Department gave an outstanding report. The students are enjoying a grant that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to their meals. The students will also be benefitting from involvement in the Healthy Sumter movement which has recently opened a community garden in Brookdale Park. The department has upped its serving numbers and is able to feed both students and their siblings who are not of school age. Additionally, a wellness committee has been appointed to ensure the students are receiving nutritionally sound meals. The department is following a model set forth by the Alliance for Healthier Generation. As for Thanksgiving, the department will be supplying enough food for the students to have for the entire Thanksgiving week.

Athletics is seeing its fair share of new developments as well as restoring old facilities. The track will be reaching completion soon. New flooring is being addressed; new scoreboards are being installed. The Athletics Department is on track to offer state of the art experiences.

The Intermediate School presented their experiences with the virtual format. Their priorities are to provide high quality teaching and experience high engagement. For the most part they have been successful in accomplishing these goals. The school is very well equipped to identify were they are struggling and to find ways to overcome these struggles. The school serves 853 students, all of which are outfitted with chrome books provided by SCS and all but 4 have internet access. The 4 without internet are receiving “packets” which are picked up and graded. The school counselors are there to support the student, family and teachers and provide a well-rounded approach to address education needs as well as social and emotional needs. The school is accomplishing much and leaning into the challenges presented.

Committee reports indicate several items will come for board to vote upon. The personnel committee went into executive session for the purposes of litigation. The curriculum committee will have nothing for board action this month, however, they presented a status update on the SCS Cognia Accreditation which listed several strengths the SCS are enjoying. The finance committee will be presenting reports to be approved. The policy committee will be asking for 4 policies to be rescinded and replaced with updated versions. Property committee will present for a vote upon landscaping and signage for the new school.

The regular meeting of the BOE will be held this Thursday, Nov. 12th at 7pm. The meeting will be held live in the administration building; however, it will also be streamed in the SCS Facebook page. The meetings are also being archived on Facebook should you like to view it.