About 500 teachers and staffers for the Fort Mill School will receive their first vaccination dose this Friday as the district sends students to a virtual schedule. A second vaccination day and virtual schedule will happen March 26.

The district has been working with the PMC Clinic in Rock Hill and have now finalized plans for a staff vaccine event, Communications Director Joe Burke said Tuesday evening by email.

“Roughly 500 staff members who indicated they would like to receive the vaccine will receive their first dose this Friday at the PMC Clinic,” he said. “To complete this process, the district has determined that all schools will operate on a virtual schedule on Friday, March 5 and Friday, March 26.”

The schedule means students will be provided curriculum that should not require the use of the internet to complete. This instruction will be similar to the virtual days used prior to the winter break in December. More information regarding the curriculum for these days will be provided by each student’s school or teacher. The March 26 date is needed to provide the second dose of the vaccine.

The news broke during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.  Here are other meeting highlights released by Burke:

Fort Mill Virtual Academy (FMVA) Update

Dr. Emily McQuay provided an update on the plans for the Fort Mill Virtual Academy for the 2021–2022 academic year. The FMVA will be open for grades 3–12, with delivery methods varying by grade level and course selection. K-2 options are not available, as the district believes the skills taught in those grades are best delivered through face-to-face instruction. The registration window will be open March 12-22, 2021. FAQs regarding structure, program components and additional information is available on the district website for families to review in determining the best choice for their students.

Approval of Waiver for Five Year Strategic Plan

The board voted to approve the waiver which will allow the district an extended timeline to complete the new five year extended plan process. This waiver was needed due to delays in the process caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enrollment and Attendance Update

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Epps presented a calendar of events for March. March 12 is a teacher workday with no school for students. Additionally, he presented an enrollment update and a monthly teacher attendance update.

Attendance Update

As part of the update, Dr. Epps shared the information below related to the return to a five-day instructional model for middle and high school students on March 15. This information included an announcement that March 5 and March 26 will be virtual learning days to accommodate a staff vaccination event. More information on this event is being shared with families, staff and media this evening.

Key Topics Discussed:

General Return

  • We believe that the majority of students benefit greatly from continued in person instruction and we have been working to safely return to this instructional model since the end of last school year.
  • It has been the district’s stated goal since the beginning of the school year to return students to full five-day instruction once the situation allowed us to do so.
  • The Governor and State Superintendent of Education are calling for schools to return to five-days of instruction immediately.

Safety Measures

  • Schools have been working on solutions for high traffic areas and times such as lunch.
    • The district has recently purchased tables to be used in outside areas for lunch.
    • Schools are implementing additional lunch periods where needed.
    • More areas of the schools are being made available for lunch to allow students to further spread out.
    • During transition times, students will be wearing masks and should be moving quickly to their next class not allowing for prolonged exposure that would meet the CDC/DHEC requirements for contact tracing in the event of a positive case.
    • Middle schools will allow locker use to cut down on the amount of materials brought into each classroom. Locker visit times and procedures will be determined by each school.
    • Desk shields have been installed in classrooms at the middle and high school levels. There are some spaces that cannot accommodate the shields and other mitigation factors are being implemented in those areas.
    • Class sizes are being adjusted on a case by case basis. We have a handful of classes with higher than normal class sizes under the A/B model and those are being addressed.
    • Transportation has been working to generate routes that would not overload bus capacity with the return. With minor changes to specific routes and the addition of some double routes, they are confident we can safely transport students each day.

Vaccine Distribution

  • While the vaccine is not considered mandatory before returning to school by the CDC and DHEC, the district is working with providers to create opportunities for staff to get vaccinated.
  • The district is tracking vaccinations under the new contact tracing guidelines. We have an online form that staff can complete and provide their vaccine information. We have more than 200 staff members that have reported their information. We know there are many more that have already received the first dose and have not submitted their information yet.

Moving Forward

  • We are seeing positive trends in our district, state and nation. Based on this and the new guidance from the CDC/DHEC, we believe we can safely return students to full instruction.
  • This does not mean we are out of the woods yet. The district will continue to monitor/track the positive case and quarantine data. Should we see the trends reverse course or if there is new guidance from the CDC/DHEC we will reevaluate our models.

Report on the South Carolina School Boards Association Annual Convention

Trustee Michele Branning provided an overview of the SCSBA Annual Convention, which was held February 18–21, 2021. The conference is designed to allow members to learn from state and national experts on topics ranging from board governance to community engagement to innovations in classroom technology, explore areas of particular interest, and connect with hundreds of school board members and other education leaders from across the state.

Foundation for Fort Mill Schools Update

Trustee Celia McCarter provided an update regarding the activities of the Foundation for Fort Mill Schools.

  • Classroom Ready has been very busy this year and has had an increase in need. They have donated an estimated $70,000 in school supplies and goods to the district this school year.
  • The deadline for seniors to apply for scholarships was March 1st. Winners will be announced in May.
  • Teacher Grants have opened again. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 16. There are slight changes to the program this year, so applicants should check the website before beginning the process. Winners will be announced in May. Please visit https://www.foundationforfortmillschools.org/programs/grant_programs/ for more information.
  • Fundraiser: Clays for a Cause will take place on Wednesday, April 14. Please visit https://www.foundationforfortmillschools.org/clays4acause/for details.
  • Fundraiser: Mark your calendars for our annual Golf Tournament that is scheduled for June 24. This is also TEC Dowling’s birthday. Please visit the Foundation’s website for more details about its programs and donation opportunities.

More information about the foundation and available programs and events can be found on their website at https://www.foundationforfortmillschools.org/.

Fort Mill School Board meetings can be viewed live or on demand on the district’s YouTube channel or with the link below.


Greg "Ricky Bobby" Rickabaugh has lived in the Fort Mill and York County community since 2006. He has covered the area while a reporter for The Charlotte Observer and a freelance writer for The Fort Mill...