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The Orangeburg County School District has postponed its annual back-to-school convocation due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases.

School officials made the decision after discussing the issue with principals, the school board and the convocation planning team.

Some school trustees voiced their opposition to a districtwide back-to-school convocation during their regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday.

Trustees, in near unanimity, told Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster that it was a bad idea to hold an indoor gathering with so many people as coronavirus cases surge.

“Vaccinations do not prevent you from getting the illness,” trustee Dr. William O’Quinn said. “Certainly the illness will be less than what one would have without the vaccination, but it still would require quarantine. The people who have had vaccinations can still transmit the disease if they have it.”

“You have been talking about safety in the schools. I think we need to consider the safety of the employees,” O’Quinn said. “Putting 2,000 people into a building masked or not, some of them are not going to mask I am sure – that is a dangerous situation. I think we should really reconsider that.”

Trustee Dr. Sylvia Bruce-Stephens echoed O’Quinn.

“This COVID is not playing,” Bruce-Stephens said. “We have to realize this disease is not playing. For myself, I don’t plan to attend.

“I am not getting into the building with 1,900 or 2,000 people and don’t know what they have.”

Course catalog

Trustees unanimously approved academic policies, procedures, and administrative rules contained in the district’s course catalog.

The rules and policies are required by the South Carolina Department of Education.

Some highlights include:

• Graduates graduating in the fall, winter or summer who want to be ranked with the senior class for scholarship eligibility can remain an active senior through the end of the senior year by enrolling in at least two courses provided by their high school, career and technical education center or college/university for dual credit.

• Students who graduate in less than four years will not be eligible to be a valedictorian or salutatorian. The students’ grade point averages can be calculated with their senior classes for scholarship purposes. Students who graduate early will also need to complete an early graduation application.

• Seniors with an overall grade point average of 4.0 or a GPA that ranks in the top 10% of the senior class in each high school will be recognized as an honor graduate.

• Fourth-year students with a cumulative average of 90 or higher will be allowed to exempt exams if they want but are not required to do so. State attendance requirements must be met for exam exemption.

Code of conduct

Trustees approved the code of conduct handbook for the 2021-2022 school year, which includes additional rules on the use of digital learning devices.

The code will include stipulations on appropriate and inappropriate use of digital devices.

The code will include an initial warning for students and then a reminder of their responsibilities and duties when handling a digital device.

Offenses will range from minor to major infractions and address such issues as careless handling of the device, refusal to participate with the device virtually and accessing inappropriate sites or games.

Parents will be informed of their need to read and sign the code of conduct form. Students will also need to sign. For parents who do not have electronic means of accessing the materials, hard copies will be provided.

General fund update

The school district in July received $4.2 million in state revenue from the state’s Education Improvement Act and Education Finance Act.

Total expenditures for the month of July were $2.7 million, with $1.8 million in salaries, $288,000 in purchased services, about $214,000 in supplies and $267,500 in transfers.

The district typically does not receive county funds in the month of July.

The school district currently has about 30 teaching vacancies, which is down from the 68 vacancies it had this same time last year.

The district plans to fill the classroom vacancies with long-term substitute teachers. Many of the substitute teachers are retired and certified, Foster said.

In other business:

• Trustees were informed there will be community meetings in the future as part of an effort to continue receiving community feedback on the school district. Dates and locations have yet to be decided.

• Trustees approved moving an inclement weather day to March 21, 2022 from the original March 18 date.

If there is no weather make-up day, all students and 190-day employees will not work on that day.

• Trustees agreed to the school district hosting a foreign exchange student this year.

The student will be a 10th grader at Branchville High School. Branchville High School was chosen as the host family lives near Branchville.

• Employee sick leave, including leave related to COVID, will be carried through in accordance with the school district’s policies and rules handbook.

Last school year, the district utilized the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide staff members with emergency paid sick leave and expanded emergency family and medical leave.

• Chair Ruby Edwards welcomed all new employees to the district.

• It was announced that Eugene Johnson, who served as a brick mason instructor at Lake Marion High School, was inducted into the National Masonry Instructors Association Hall of Fame.

Johnson is now retired from the school district after serving 37 years.

• Trustees authorized the superintendent to resolve pending matters related to an employee as discussed in closed session. The employee was not identified due to it being a personnel matter.

• Trustees Idella Carson, R.L. “Poppy” Brown, Dr. Debora Brunson and Bruce-Stephens were all recognized for their progress in board development.

• The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the district’s headquarters on Founders Court. The public will have access to the meeting via the district’s website.

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