The 2017-2018 school year will begin in Bamberg District One on Aug. 17.

Trustees approved the opening date at the board's April meeting, but they are still mulling over a decision on the administration’s request to hold school during the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

This vote was delayed in March to allow time for the administration to confer with the attorneys about possible liability to the district should anyone remove his or her safety glasses during the eclipse and sustain damage to their eyes.

Superintendent Phyllis Schwarting told trustees she’d had a response from attorneys suggesting parents be allowed to “opt in” for their children to participate in the event by giving them signed, written permission.

Attorney Charles Boykin suggested at the meeting that the district make sure teachers are well trained in safety and supervision for the event.

Schwarting said teachers are already studying safety measures and are training their students on safely measures to take while observing the eclipse. She said she believes it will be safer for students to observe the event under supervision at school.

“No matter where they are, the kids are going to be looking at the eclipse,” Schwarting said. “We’ve got to have a lot of supervision and we know that, and I think that’s being well planned.”

The district ’s science teachers are knowledgeable and even know how to make the safety glasses needed to view the eclipse, but that won’t be necessary because a resident has already agreed to pay for them, the superintendent noted.

She said she will have some science teachers present at the next meeting to talk about their plans for observing the eclipse and to answer the board’s questions.

Schwarting noted that the eclipse will occur near the end of the school day. If trustees approve having students observe the event at school, classroom hours will be extended that day, she said.

In other business, trustees agreed not to raise school taxes next year. They had previously taken a poll, agreeing to maintain the current millage rate of 109. The board made it official at the April meeting.

The board delayed swearing in trustees Julia R. Berry and John L. Hiers, who were elected in April. Berry, who defeated incumbent Kedra Rivers for Seat 3, was on a long-planned vacation and missed the meeting. Hiers, who retained Seat 4, agreed to wait until Berry returns to take the oath of office along with her.

Trustees evaluated Schwarting during executive session. The district’s attorney will release the results of the evaluation later.

The board voted following the closed session to promote Dennis Ulmer from interim principal to principal of Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School.

Ulmer, who was named assistant principal in 2015-2016, became interim principal in January 2017 when Randy Maxwell retired.

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