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The Orangeburg County School District board unanimously approved more than 100 elective classroom courses for the upcoming school year.

"These courses were offered in our schools last year," District Director of Secondary Schools Kelvin Lemon told trustees on Tuesday. "There is nothing new here.”

The board approved the approximately 135 different courses, but not after questioning why the courses were not brought before the board earlier for review.

By law, local school districts are required to approve instructional activities that are offered in schools, but are not listed in the activity coding manual published by the S.C. Department of Education, Lemon said.

Each district needs to maintain a listing of locally approved courses by subject area and subgroups. They need to be approved by the district’s board of trustees each year.

Lemon said prior to consolidation, districts each had different elective courses. With consolidation, these courses have been brought together under one district and placed into the new district's database.

Lemon said going forward he suggests streamlining some of the courses into one.

"Currently with the courses that exist there are some duplicates where a course may cover the same content, but have a different title based on the practices of the former school district," he said.

For instance, English strategy was offered in the former Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 and English seminar was offered in the former OCSD3.

History strategy was offered in the former OCSD5 while early American studies was offered in the former OCSD4.

When some trustees asked for a chance to review the list of courses before voting on them, Lemon said some students may have already signed up to take the courses.

Lemon said the courses were emailed to trustees last week.

Trustee Ruby Edwards asked Lemon how not voting on the matter would impact the district. Classes start Monday.

Lemon said it would create difficulties since some students have already signed up for the courses.

"I don't want students in Orangeburg County to start out with a problem that Monday morning," Edwards said. "I would love to have seen this earlier, but I want Monday the 19th to be as smooth as silk."

Board Chair Peggy James-Tyler and trustees Vernell Goodwin and Mary Ulmer all expressed a desire to receive information in a more timely fashion in the future.

Trustees decided to approve the courses with the understanding they are not new to the district.

In other matters:

• Chief of Instructional Services Dr. Lana Williams reported changes have been made to the district's code of conduct manual to allow principals to have more flexibility when it comes to disciplinary issues on campus.

For example, Williams said the code of conduct previously stipulated the exact number of days a student would be punished for a violation of the code. The new code will allow principals to punish students up to a number of days.

"Every situation is different," Williams said. "We didn't want to give a definitive number."

The board received the matter as information.

• District Director of Maintenance and Facilities David Hess said ground maintenance such as mowing is being done at all the district's properties in preparation for the start of school.

Construction and renovation projects are also being completed including roofing, floor replacement and climate control systems.

"We recently had a roofing engineering inspection in multiple facilities in the east to address the needs of the roofs," Hess said. "We are awaiting that final report that will show us recommendations and also associated costs with those recommendations."

Hess said the district continues to meet with principals about ongoing facility needs.

"Currently, we have between 2,500 and 2,600 HVAC units in our county," he said. "We have between 5 and 7 percent of those down. Not too bad unless you are part of that 5 or 7 percent."

Hess says three contractors and one district employee are working to get those units up.

• All 32 of the district's principals introduced themselves to the board.

James-Tyler told the principals that board members will most likely be visiting the schools on occasion.

"Children first," she said. "That is why we are here: for our children. You have a big job in front of you because our precious children will be there on Monday."

• It was reported that 22 students graduated Aug. 5 as part of the district's summer graduation program.

• After a half-hour closed session, trustees unanimously approved hiring two assistant administrators: one for Dover Elementary School and the other for Lockett Elementary School

• Trustees approved hiring for 18 teacher and guidance positions.

• Trustees unanimously approved first reading of the district's instruction policy as well as final reading of the district's policy on students. As part of the instruction policy, it was noted that students will have the option to not participate in the Pledge of Allegiance as long as the student is not causing a disruption.

• The district convocation is scheduled 9 a.m. Aug. 15 at the Seventh-Day Adventist convention center at 514 Neeses Highway.

• The next meeting of the OCSB will be held Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at 102 Founders Court. The meetings are held in the second-floor board room.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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