New Florence School District 1 debuts Friday | Latest headlines

CHRIS DAY Morning News

FLORENCESC — The new Florence School District 1 will be born Friday when Florence 4 schools consolidate with FS1 schools.

The South Carolina Department of Education seized control of Florence County School District 4 in Timmonsville in May 2018 because of financial problems in the district. This March, South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced the school district would consolidate with FS1 July 1. Spearman said the Florence 4 School District didn’t have the resources to be able to operate on its own.

The South Carolina General Assembly stepped into the consolidation scenario in May. Consolidations bills were introduced in the House on May 3 and the Senate on May 5. The bills were passed by the General Assembly May 10 and signed by Gov. Henry McMaster May 18.

The legislation provides the framework for consolidation, and established a new, nine-member school board with members to be selected by the Florence County legislative delegation. Board members will eventually be elected to their positions in nonpartisan elections.

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The new board will take office Friday.

Beginning in November 2022, board districts 4, 6, 8 and 9 will be up for election. The board members will be elected to four-year terms, according to the legislation.

Beginning with the 2024 school district elections, board districts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 representatives will be elected in the November general election. The election will be non-partisan. The representatives will serve four-year terms. Another election will be held in 2028, according to the legislation.

Members of the board of trustee must live in the school district and the district they will represent on the board.

The filing period for the November 2022 school board election will be Aug. 1-15, according to the legislation.

The legislation also retired Timmonsville High School and Johnson Middle School. Brockington Elementary School will remain open as an arts magnet school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

Wanda Williams-Parrott has been named principal at Brockington Elementary School.

Timmonsville High School and Johnson Middle School students were allowed to choose either Wilson High School, West Florence High School, South Florence High School or Moore Middle School, Sneed Middle School, Southside Middle School or Williams Middle School.

Florence 1 School District has already approved its 2022-23 fiscal year budget, which includes additional state funding for the Florence 4 school district students.

Florence School District 1 Superintendent Richard O’Malley discussed consolidation efforts with Morning News Managing Editor Chris Day on Thursday. Here are highlights of the interview. Readers can watch the video of the entire interview on www.scnow.com.

Q. What are the details of the consolidation because July 1 is coming up quickly?

A. Brockington Elementary School, which will have about 300 students, will remain. That school – Brockington – will become a magnet arts school. … We did get some additional funding from Superintendent Spearman to start that – being instruments, providing technology and a lot of opportunities that those students haven’t had in the past. We want to be really focused around the arts. That program will move forward starting Aug. 1. The middle school and high school students — way back probably in February — were given the choice to pick what middle school, what high school they would like to attend. Once those selections were done, we sent our guidance counselors down to Timmonsville to meet with the students and the parents to begin the selection of their courses. We had a pretty diverse range of where they choose to go. Both in high school and middle school, that was the same process. We are set to go. Those students are set to go. Some are already participating in and getting ready for fall sports. Come July 1, that’s how Florence 4 will be divided up into our Florence 1 schools.

Q. Is the magnet arts school at Brockington for elementary-school students?

A. Yes, that will be for all the students in kindergarten through fifth grade at Brockington Elementary School.

Q. Can anyone from the Florence 1 School District attend the magnet arts program at Brockington?

A. In the first year, the answer will be no. We hope if we develop a strong enough arts program, that it will be like our other magnet schools – Immersion and Montessori – that there will be a choice to go to Brockington Elementary School as well. That will probably be after the first year.

Q. What changes will the students at Brockington Elementary notice?

A. It will probably be a whole new school that we’ve been working on – from technology in the classroom that they didn’t have to the one-on-one and being able to bring the laptops home. They weren’t receiving any types of electives or specials. They were getting maybe once a week from a foundation in Columbia the arts and the music. They are going to have more than they’ve ever had as far as arts electives with the new arts magnet. Arts, dance, instruments and other opportunities that they have never had before. They are going to have the same curriculum we have – all of our new textbooks and all of our new curriculum. Just about everything other than the physical building, which we have made renovations too and added some things, will be new.

Q. What sort of renovations have been made at Brockington Elementary?

A. HVAC had to be replaced. We’ve had to fix some leaks in the roof and in the gymnasium. They haven’t had any technology in the classrooms. We had to take out old televisions and put our smartboards in there. Those are a lot of the renovations that have taken place inside or on the exterior of the structure.

Q. What will happen to the Timmonsville High School and Johnson Middle School buildings?

A. Currently, we don’t have any plans right now, but we have several options that we would like to see and several partnerships that we are working on for the future. For this school year, those two wings of that school will not be functioning as any kind of educational facility. We will spend the year trying to develop some partnerships and working with some groups like Florence-Darlington Tech to enhance what we want to provide in those facilities.

Q. Are you making plans to use those facilities at some point?

A. We want to try to maximize the educational facility as well as the entire city of Timmonsville might want to see in those facilities.

Q. Will absorbing Timmonsville High School and Johnson Middle School students into the FS1 schools cause any problems with classroom sizes or the need to hire additional teachers?

A. No, actually, we have been planning for this for a while. As you are probably aware, we are adding 32 classrooms to West Florence. So, the mobiles will go away, but that will be 10 additional classrooms. I think we have approximately 80 students that chose to go to West Florence. In a school of 1,800 students, we can absorb that along with any others. In South Florence with the new Southside, we are going to shift the ninth-grade academy to the old Southside. That gives us a capacity of somewhere between 2,300 and 2,400 students. So, capacity-wise, we are pretty good at both those schools.

Q. Obviously, you are going to have to add some teachers. Will those teachers be ones who served at Florence 4 Schools?

A. In high school, because there are so many offerings, it’s easier to disperse 80 students without adding teachers. We have hired about 90 percent of the staff that was at Florence 4 to our staff. That includes bus drivers, assistants and teachers.

Q. How will be Timmonsville-area public be involved in Florence School District 1?

A. Just like our public, the input really starts at the local school level, regarding their teacher or the organization of the school. Curriculum questions can come to the district office. With the legislation, there is now a board seat that represents Timmonsville. So, they have someone representing the entire city of Timmonsville on the board of trustees. That representation is at every different level.

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