School Trustees Chairwoman Kristy Spears talks to Chief Communications Officer Joe Burke (right) Wednesday night as Trustee Wayne Bouldin listens.

The Fort Mill School District is planning to reopen schools on Aug. 10 with an option for a Virtual Academy for those who want to remain at home, Superintendent Chuck Epps said Wednesday night.

In addition, trustees adjusted the calendar to start classes on Monday, Aug. 10. End dates will be May 21 for high school students and May 28 for elementary and middle school students. (See full calendar below)

The earlier start date is because state legislators approved an addition of five days for K-8 students. Teachers will head back Aug. 3, also a week earlier than scheduled with accommodations for those who scheduled vacations.

Parents will receive emails as early as tomorrow from the school district with all the choices, registration dates and the new calendar. All information will be on the school district’s website. (Click here)

Dr. Epps said parent surveys on the reopening issue were divided among the options and did not settle the matter. He also said the state has given the district wide latitude.

“My first goal is to get them back (to school),” Dr. Epps said. “It has to be done in a safe way and within the health requirements.”

The superintendent also said the district will provide protocols for handling a classroom where a student tests positive and will ask for parents to help with decreasing the demand on busing, when possible.

Here is a summary of Wednesday’s night’s board meeting from Joseph Burke, Chief Communications Officer:

Updates of Summer School and 2020-2021 School Year Opening

Dr. Chuck Epps provided an update regarding Summer School and the AccelerateFM Task Force’s work on plans to reopen schools in August, 2020.

Elementary Summer School classes will start on Monday, July 6, with an in-person and virtual option.

The Fort Mill School District is working diligently to create a plan for the return to school for the 2020–2021 school year. The district has collected data from parent, teacher and staff surveys to help guide our decisions, along with reviewing recommendations from the AccelerateED Task Force, S.C. DHEC, the CDC and medical associations.

While plans for the return to school in August have not been finalized, the district is currently evaluating in-person learning options for students. These options include a rotating schedule, as well as a full return for students. As the district evaluated these plans, the administration determined there is a need for a fully virtual option for K–12 parents to select as an alternative to any in-person plan.

More information about the Fort Mill Virtual Academy curriculum and operation will be available on the district’s website beginning Thursday, July 2.

Consideration of 2020-2021 Calendar Adjustment

Dr. Epps and Mr. Joe Burke presented an adjusted calendar to the board based on recent bill passed by the S.C. Legislature. The bill adds 5 instructional days to the school calendar for students in Kindergarten through Eighth grade and allows for an earlier start date of August 10. These five days are designed to provide time for student evaluation, review and remediation following the need for distance learning during 2019–2020 school year. In accordance with this new legislation, the Fort Mill School Board approved changes to the school calendar.

The approved changes include moving the school start date for all students to Monday, August 10, 2020, the end date for high school students to Friday, May 21, 2021, and the end date for elementary and middle school students to Friday, May 28, 2021.

Construction Update

Mr. Joe Romenik shared a construction update with the board regarding Kings Town Elementary, River Trail Elementary and Forest Creek Middle schools.

Kings Town Elementary is on track for opening in August at the start of the 2020–2021 school year. Following the delays in construction announced earlier this year, River Trail Elementary is on track to open for students in January 2021. River Trail students will be housed in their class groups at Doby’s Bridge and Kings Town Elementary schools for the first part of the 2020–2021 school year and will transition to the new building following winter break.

Forest Creek Middle School is on track for tentative completion in May of 2021 and opening to students for the 2021–2022 school year.

Here is the email sent Wednesday night to parents:

Good Evening Fort Mill Families and Staff,

The Fort Mill School District is working diligently to create a plan for the return to school for the 2020–2021 school year. The district has collected data from parent, teacher and staff surveys to help guide our decisions, along with reviewing recommendations from the AccelerateED Task Force, S.C. DHEC, the CDC and medical associations. Once the plan is finalized the district will announce details for the return to school. Below is information on several changes that will impact the 2020–2021 school year.

2020–2021 School Calendar Changes

The S.C. Legislature has recently passed a bill to alter school calendars in our state. The bill adds 5 instructional days to the school calendar for students in Kindergarten through Eighth grade and allows for an earlier start date of August 10. These five days are designed to provide time for student evaluation, review and remediation following the distance learning that occurred during 2019–2020 school year. In accordance with this new legislation, the Fort Mill School Board approved changes to the school calendar at the special called board meeting held July 1.

The approved changes include moving the school start date for all students to Monday, August 10, 2020, the end date for high school students to Friday, May 21, 2021, and the end date for elementary and middle school students to Friday, May 28, 2021.

This new calendar will provide time for the intended review and remediation days for elementary and middle school students, along with creating a balanced semester for high school students that will allow the first semester to end prior to winter break. While the change in start date may cause some disruption to our families, we believe this change will benefit all students and allow for the needed recovery time to begin the new school year.

The new 2020–2021 school calendar is attached to this email.

Fort Mill Virtual Academy Option

While plans for the return to school in August have not been finalized, the district is currently evaluating in-person learning options for students. These options include a rotating schedule, as well as a full return for students. As the district evaluated these plans, we have determined there is a need for a fully virtual option for K–12 parents to select as an alternative to any in-person plan.

In order to meet this need, the district has created the Fort Mill Virtual Academy. This academy will be a fully structured virtual model that will include live and recorded instruction along with a daily educational schedule. More information about the Fort Mill Virtual Academy curriculum and structure will be available on the district’s website beginning Thursday, July 2. Information about registration for the virtual academy will be announced once determined.

We recognize the uncertainty related to the return to school has caused stress for our families and staff. We want to assure everyone the district is working quickly and purposefully to create plans that will address our family and staff needs and concerns while considering the health of our entire community. The district will continue to update parents and staff of any changes to the 2020–2021 school year and we will share the finalized return to school plan once it is are determined. We ask for your continued patience and support as we navigate this ever changing situation.

The Fort Mill School District