District 56, Clinton-Joanna, will ask District 55, Laurens, to sign a memorandum of understanding so that the districts can share services of an alternative school.

The District 56 Board of Trustees approved the idea during its meeting Monday night. District 56 does not have alternative placement; District 55 does, with a director and faculty. District 55’s program “has needs,” the District 56 board was told, and the arrangement could be a way to meet some of those needs. For every 15 District 56 students referred to alternative placement, District 56 would fund a teaching position.

Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Superintendent Brenda Schrantz said the two districts together could develop a strong alternative program. These students will need academic instruction and “emotional learning” to become successful, she said. District 56 has one alternative placement student in the District 55 program and that student is thriving, she said. Transporting and feeding the alternative placement students would be hurdles to overcome, the board was told.

We are searching to find a niche for every student,” she said. “We have struggled to have a vibrant alternative program as a way to connect with them. They need more than a computer; they need people – interaction and relationship building.”

Schrantz said, typically, 15 students are the maximum need for District 56 in middle school and high school alternative placement.

Some of our parents are searching for this,” she said. “We hope this is a stepping stone. We hope one day to have a county-wide career center.”

The idea of a memorandum of understanding between the districts was approved on a 6-0 vote (board member Dr. Patsy Sadler was absent).

Also receiving unanimous approval was the administration’s recommendation to ask the State Department of Education for a start-of-school waiver for 2020-21. Without the waiver, the last day teachers would have to work in their schools would be Saturday, June 5, 2021.

District 56 wants to start the next school year on Aug. 12, a Wednesday. Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said a mid-week start is better for schools than a Monday start. State law mandates that no district can start school before the third Monday in August, subject to a state education department waiver.

O’Shields said District 55 is going to make the same waiver request. He said Greenwood County schools also are modifying their calendar, “but theirs is radically different from ours.”

If the state department grants the waiver, in 2020-21, the first semester would have 85 days and the second semester would have 95 days. O’Shields said the ideal situation, instructionally, would be 90 days in each. Breaks, holidays and in-service make that nearly impossible, he said.

Also, O’Shields said, it is better for everyone if exams are administered before Christmas break.

Oct. 2, 2020, would be “a breather” day for everyone in District 56, if the waiver is granted. O’Shields said that fall break would be welcome for students and teachers alike in the time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

If the waiver is granted, the first day for students in 2020 would be Aug. 12. Teachers would report to their schools on Aug. 6.

The end of the first semester would be Friday, Dec. 18, the 85th day.

Board Chairman Jim Barton said he would favor the administration’s recommendation as long as it does not move the district toward year-round school. O’Shields said that would not be proposed without “serious discussion.”