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Sumter BOE applies for over $24 million in federal funding

The Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) held their working meeting on July 6, 2021. The meeting ran close to 2.5 hours with federal funding and dress code taking up much of the time. To open the meeting, construction updates were provided, and it is expected the new high school will be on time with only minimal punch list items to be completed and Ignite requiring a bit more effort. At it stands today, a ribbon cutting will be held on August 5th at 10:30 AM.

Mr. Knighton helped present the curriculum committee updates. He reports summer school could be deemed successful. In addition, he reports Dr. Choates has requested social workers and school counselors be allowed an extra five days to prepare for the social and emotional needs of the students secondary from not having been in the classroom for a year. Abbis Bivins presented some concerns over this and felt the high retention rate could be helped with additional support from such professionals. Knighton explained again the additional five days would be specifically for those professionals to address the social and educational needs of the students. There is also an upcoming district leadership retreat which will assess the needs of the system and staffing will be part of this conversation. Carolyn Hamilton then questioned some of the requirements of the funding process for Sumter County Schools (SCS) to receive federal funding secondary to the pandemic. The process appears to come in two parts, an application process and then a post application approval process. The application has been submitted by SCS Federal Programs Director. Hamilton presented several questions about the deliverables required by the funding source. Administration ensures the requirements of the funding would be completed. Chairman Barnes expressed his confidence in the director as she has been doing such work for years. Barnes continued to confirm and insure the BOE the application can be amended and changed as the needs of SCS became more evident. Areas Hamilton presented the most concern over were the safety plan being in place. Administration reports the plan is on the website, although it apparently was in a usual location. Barnes suggested there be a site directory so those visiting the website would know where to find their answers. Hamilton also reports the community and stakeholders were to have input into the use of the funding. While there is a document which collects information as well as an email which also receives suggestions there seems to be some concern this does not offer enough of an opportunity to submit ideas. Administration agreed to review the requirements and take into consideration what additional steps should be taken to insure both suggestions and reactions to the proposed plan for the funds. Lastly Hamilton brought up the social and emotional needs of both students and teachers. Administration assured that “learning loss” was the umbrella under such needs would be addressed. Barnes stated he considered learning loss to be a big picture item, and “there are several branches in the tree causing detriment” indicating there are specific needs under learning loss which will receive consideration. Once again it was established information could be amended to fit the needs of SCS.

Policy committee originally presented there would be no board action as they intend to make no changes in policy. However, after consulting with Knighton, there was some discussion which required the BOE to enter further conversation. The dress code brought forth conversation, with use of socks and defining sandals being topics. There was a period of determining what the operational definition of sandal would be. There was also questioning as to why SCS is policing the use of socks and if socks directly effected the learning of the students. In the end, a majority of the BOE felt more research was needed but defining sock use was not imperative to the learning ability of the student.

The BOE then entered executive session for personnel reasons and when coming back into open session made a few comments regarding nutritional updates and adjourned the meeting. For the regular meeting there will be several items requiring action. Finance will have several items requesting approval. Personnel will also be suggesting several forward actions.  The voting meeting will be at 7pm on Thursday, 7.8.21 in the administration building. It can also be viewed on Facebook under the Sumter County Schools page.