Lexington Three not ready to join school districts going year-round

Students at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School leave for their winter break. If year-round school were to come to Lexington Three someday, these two-week respites would become more common throughout the year. (Staff photo by Tony Baughman)

Every so often, the proposal to have year-round schooling pops up. This time around, it is Greenwood School District 50, under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Steve Glenn.

Greenwood District 50 recently joined the McCormick County School District — with Interim Superintendent Betty Bagley at the helm — to become the second district in the state to make the change to a year-round school schedule running from July to June.

On Dec 11, the Greenwood 50 Schools’ board of trustees voted 7-2 to adopt a modified calendar that cuts short summer break but adds two-week breaks every nine weeks. The South Carolina Department of Education has affirmed the schedule, saying it meets the legal requirements of 180 school days.

Ryan Brown, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Education, also said there are two individual schools — one in Spartanburg Conty, the other in Marlboro County — that have adopted year-round schedules.

Would Lexington District Three consider such a move?

“Speaking for myself, I don’t see that happening any time soon here. I don’t see the administration proposing for that to occur,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Steve Hefner. “The only way for a year round calendar to work is if the community wanted to do something (along those lines).”

Lexington Three has three facilities that are aging, Dr. Hefner said, and roofs need to be replaced along with aging HVAC systems and plumbing. These are repairs that cannot be taken care of in a two-week block, he said.

Are there any special hoops a school or district must jump through to go to year-round schooling? According to Mr. Brown, there are none. It would be totally up to the community and the district to make such a change.

Greenwood 50 passed a new three-year calendar at its December school board meeting. The 2020-2021 will remain as a traditional school year before transitioning to the new calendar in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. Once the new schedule takes effect, school will begin at the end of July and continue for nine weeks followed by a two-week break. Summer vacation will consist of a six-week respite.

Superintendent Harvey Livington in adjacent Saluda County said that because Saluda Country is mostly an agricultural area, many of the district’s student’s work on family farms during the summer break or at other jobs available in the area to help their families. Dr. Livingston felt that Saluda County would not venture into a year-round calendar in the near future, if ever.

King Lawrence, Interim Superintendent in adjacent Aiken County Public Schools, acknowledged that the topic year-round school has come up in Aiken County, but it received no real consideration.

“I am very anxious to see what happens with Greenwood 50. I am not sure that it is the answer to improve academic achievement,” Mr. Lawrence said, adding that between Greenwood 50 and McCormick County, they might have some interesting data in the next year or two to present to others.

As with any new concept, there are pros and cons. Proponents contend that year-round schooling will improve academics, ease overcrowding issues in some school districts, eliminate the boredom of an extended break from school, and reduce the need to have a summer school.

Critics say that it would change family schedules, wouldn’t provide year-round activities, and would reduce opportunities for extracurricular activities. It also would prevent teachers from maintaining secondary employment during the summer break, according to critics.

Some families might thrive in the year-round school schedule while others would not. That is one reason why educators no doubt will be studying the Greenwood 50 and McCormick experiments to evaluate if this brand of schooling would be beneficial across South Carolina – including right here in Batesburg-Leesville.

Story by Anna Long / Published December 26, 2019