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As the summer winds to a close, Horry County school officials have been working hard to get ready for the 2019-2020 academic year.

School starts Aug. 19. Here are some highlights from Monday night's school board work session: 

Facilities

Department head Mark Wolfe said that facilities crews have been working “feverishly” to complete many projects, including roofing on several schools. St. James Elementary, which was in the news frequently in the months before school ended because of mold issues, is getting a new roof.

District 5 board member Janice Morreale was concerned — she thought the project was supposed to be completed over the break.

“It seems like it's a summer project that is turning into a fall project,” Morreale said.

Wolfe said that the SJES roofing project is a four-month project that would not have been done over the summer anyway.

”This is just how it fell into the rotation,” Wolfe said.

Morreale expressed worry about the distraction of a roofing project while students were in the building.

“It can be a little distracting,” Wolfe said. “We were very careful to work with principals about testing … a lot of work can occur after school leaves that is especially noisy. We try our best to make sure it (distraction) doesn’t happen.”

Work on the new Horry County Education Center is underway, with a conceptual floor plan received by the facilities department just last week.

“We are really working through how the program works and how they use the building to make something that is going to support how they use the program,” Wolfe said.

Chief Officer of Support Services Daryl Brown also confirmed that the reconfiguration of the Myrtle Beach Early Childhood Center and Myrtle Beach Elementary schools is complete and ready to go for the first day of school.

New vaping consequences

Chief Officer of Student Services Velna Allen said that due to principals reporting major problems in middle and high schools last year with vaping and the use of JUUL devices, consequences for student use at school will be more harsh this year.

“Nationwide we are having a problem,” Allen said.

Allen and Executive Director For Student Affairs HT Lee said that last year the first offense for vaping on school property was two days of in-school suspension, with a second offense penalty of two days of out-of-school suspension.

This year, students will face between two to five days of out-of-school suspension for the first offense.

Lee said the principals expressed that a range of punishment would be better, since smoking tobacco products is different than vaping in that smoking tobacco products usually happens outside or in the bathrooms.

Now, Lee said, students can be vaping in the hallway or even in the classroom, as the vapor can be nearly invisible.

“If they are blatant about it,” Lee said, their punishment will fall on the higher end of the range.

Allen said they are working on a contract with Shoreline Behavioral Health Services, which would have the second offense students be required to take a tobacco and vaping awareness course as part of their consequences.

Teacher staffing

Superintendent Rick Maxey said the staffing numbers are “a moving target,” as currently there are still 62 teacher vacancies in the district.

The vacancies, he said, are largely in areas where recruitment has proven difficult in the past, such as math, science and special education.

“Realistically we know we won’t fill all of them, but with confidence we will make sure we have the right people in the classroom to take care of our students,” Maxey said.

Board governance

HCS Chairman Ken Richardson referred to recent social media debates about whether the board should go back to traditional governance or keep the current coherent governance model.

Under the current governance policies, the superintendent is the board’s sole point of connection and the board can direct the superintendent only through official decisions of the full board. The superintendent is responsible for all matters related to the day-to-day operations of the organization, and according to policy B/SR-3 in the Horry County Schools Board Governance policies, the board can not give direction to any employee other than the superintendent.

Under traditional governance, the board would have more responsibility in the day-to-day management of the organization and be able to speak with others in the district freely to help get things done for their constituents instead of having to go directly through the superintendent.

“I don’t want to go back to anything because we’re trying to move the district forward,” Richardson said.

The board voted to add two more committees to their repertoire, one for policy and one for curriculum. Richardson changed the committees to only have three members each, as follows:

Finance

Chair, Chris Hardwick (District 9)                                                                                            Janet Graham (District 7)                                                                                                      Helen Smith (District 6)

Facilities

Chair, Neil James (District 10)                                                                                              John Poston (Vice-Chair/District 8).                                                                                  Sherrie Todd (District 2)

Human Resources

Chair, David Cox (District 4)                                                                                             Shanda Allen (District 11)                                                                                                      Helen Smith (District 6)

Technology

Chair, Janice Morreale (District 5)                                                                                      Shanda Allen (District 11)                                                                                                          Ray Winters (District 3)

Curriculum

Chair, Sherrie Todd (District 2)                                                                                                 Janet Graham (District 7)                                                                                                      Janice Morreale (District 5)

Policy

Chair, Holly Heniford (District 1)                                                                                            David Cox (District 4)                                                                                                                Ray Winters (District 3)

“I want to call it the today board governance. I’m not worried about what it used to be. I’m worried about what we’re doing today,” Richardson said.

HCS has also compiled the Top 10 things families need to know to be ready for back-to-school. Find them here: https://www.horrycountyschools.net/Page/13311

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