Aiken County Public School District

The Aiken County School Board voted to delay the start date for the 2020-2021 school year to Aug. 31 in a special called meeting Wednesday evening via Zoom.

Two members, Jason Crane and Dwight Smith, voted in opposition. All other present members voted in favor.

One member, Sandra Shealey, was absent. Chairman Keith Liner said Shealey was having internet issues and could not login to the meeting. However, Liner said she told him she supported the delay.

The board agreed to vote on the issue after Superintendent King Laurence requested the board postpone the school start date until Aug. 31 at Tuesday's board meeting. The original start date was Aug. 17.

Laurence proposed the two-week delay to give the school district more time to prepare for the upcoming school year due to the impact of COVID-19 on daily operations and opening plans.

Despite the delayed school start, Laurence said the registration deadline is still July 31. The district is working to organize cohorts for hybrid learning, which depends on parents registering their students.

New school calendar

During the same meeting, the board approved a new school calendar for the 2020-2021 school year to accommodate the late start.

The approved calendar will have school begin on Aug. 31 and end on June 11. Graduations are scheduled for June 10 and 11.

Labor Day will be a school day this year, and so will the Monday after New Year's Day.

There will be no Fall Break, and Thanksgiving Break will begin on Thanksgiving Day and last through the weekend. Winter Break will begin on Dec. 21, the same starting date in the previous calendar.

Before the board approved the new calendar, Laurence suggested waiting until the community could comment.

"In my mind, our next meeting is Aug. 11, and with the first day of school being Aug. 31, it's reasonable to me to give the community a chance to look at that calendar and give comment on it, maybe make some suggestions," Laurence said.

However, the board decided to adopt a calendar during that meeting.

Board member Barry Moulton said he has heard from about 40 of his constituents who said they want the board to make a decision.

"If we opt to drag this out to Aug. 11, I think we shouldn't forget that that means everybody is waiting to make their plans because they don't know what's happening to the calendar. To me, that's the negative side of waiting," Moulton said.

Smith also supported adopting the calendar that night.

"I've been answering messages most of the day, and most of the messages I've dealt with are people complaining about us moving the start date back, and everything continues to be fluid. I would personally like to see us, since we've already made a decision to move it back two weeks, that we go ahead and finalize the calendar tonight," Smith said.

Board member Cameron Nuessle spoke in support of finalizing the calendar that night as well.

The adopted calendar was one of three options presented by Laurence. Prior to accepting the calendar, the board amended the schedule in a separate vote.

Originally, the calendar had the first two days of Winter Break designated as school days. Board member John Bradley pointed out that removing the first Monday and Tuesday of Winter Break effectively removes four days from the break when counting the weekend.

Instead, the board adopted an amended version of the calendar that kept the full Winter Break and made Labor Day and the Monday after New Year's Day school days.

The only opposing vote to the Labor Day calendar amendment was Jason Crane, who said people may have already made plans for Labor Day weekend.

Of the three options proposed, the adopted calendar has the earliest last day of school. The other two proposed calendars had ending dates of June 17 and June 16, and they would have retained a Fall Break.

The vote to pass the amended calendar was unanimous, with all eight present board members voting in favor.