The Newberry County School Board and Superintendent Bennie Bennett are up for a challenge.
Yes, each of Newberry County's 6,030 students have individual talents and needs said Bennett, and he insists the board is set on meeting those needs. To that end, board members discussed different options at the their annual retreat work meeting at Piedmont Technical College‘s Newberry campus.
They examined programs the district offers, additional programs that should be offered and the best way to offer those programs.
“We are constantly evaluating our instructional programs. We would love to be on the cutting edge with best practices and instructional methods as we provide the best opportunities for our students,” Bennett said.
Bennett said the district wants to offer its students more programs than what is required for a high school diploma.
Though students today are heavily involved in technology with Internet YouTube videos, phone text messages and a myriad of computer-savvy skills, the technological side of instruction is only one piece of what districts can offer.
Bennett mentioned schools in other districts with extensive music, theater and art programs.
“On one hand you want to offer as much as possible, and on the other you realize the challenge of having limited resources,” said Bennett.
In offering a new course, cost is always a factor.
Say, for instance, seven area high school students want to take Advanced Placement calculus.
A teacher would have to be prepped to instruct that class, a location chosen and interested students bussed to whichever school held the class-without additional state funding, Bennett said.
“How do you make all that work?” asked Bennett. “It is a tremendous challenge to meet the needs of students who may be performing at so many different levels, but it is one we gladly accept.”
The board also looked at high school students' existing A-B schedule that alternates classes on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday rotation, and the option of having a seven-period class day instead.
“I think you have to continually revise these things to be effective in education,” said Bennett.
“There is no such thing as standing still in education. You are either moving forward or getting behind.”
Filling space after 2010
As the district rounds out the final two years of its $77.4 million building project approved in 2005, Bennett says the board considered how to best fill additional building space the project opened up as the county population grows and fluctuates.
“It is critical as we near the end of our building program that we have a plan in place of where students are assigned to schools,” he said. “You have to be very careful because you want to have space to accommodate growth in a particular area.”
The district will study growth projections and student enrollment when considering where to best assign students and redraw attendance lines.
What to do with
the old buildings?
As new building construction continues, the district is looking how to best use outdated schools.
In some cases, old schools are storage units, like at the old Speers Street school, and often are used as polling sites on election days.
Board members discussed selling or renting some of the old buildings.
Older buildings and property the district owns: