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As Hurricane Irma moves closer to South Carolina, its unpredictability is leading some area schools to close as a safety precaution. Others are keeping a watchful eye on its path.

"At this time, I expect the district to make a decision about schools by midday on Friday. Right now we are not expecting any impacts from Irma until Sunday evening so everything is operating on normal schedules this week,” said Bill Clark, spokesman for Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5.

“Next week is another story and we are watching conditions and forecasts very closely."

Some districts were also waiting to make a decision on Thursday, while many area colleges and universities were closing.

OCSD4 is seeking more information before making a decision about closures, Assistant Superintendent Ernest Holiday said.

"Right now we haven't made any plans as to what we're doing yet," Holiday said.

OCSD3 Superintendent Jesulon Gibbs-Brown said students and teachers will be dismissed early at 11:30 a.m. Friday. The district office will close at 1 p.m.

The Lake Marion High School game against Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School, which was scheduled for Friday, has also been postponed and will be rescheduled to a later date.

Bamberg School Districts 1 and 2 were awaiting more information from emergency preparedness officials on Thursday before finalizing any plans.

District 1 Assistant Superintendent Robert Kearse said, "Nothing is planned at this point. I'm fairly confident that something is going to be planned based on all the information that we see on the Internet."

Deborah Anderson, assistant to BSD2 Superintendent Dr. Thelma Sojourner, said, "We're still waiting to hear from the authorities in Bamberg as far as the weather is concerned. So no decision has been made here."

Dr. Steve Wilson, superintendent of the Calhoun County School District, said the weather situation was being monitored, but no decision on school closures had yet been made.

"We're talking with EMS here locally and kind of seeing what they're saying and forecasting. And as soon as we know something, we'll make the appropriate call. But in the meantime, we put all our people here in the county on notice that no field trips and that kind of thing," Wilson said "We're not going to be caught out there without having planned well for the kids."

Evan Powell, headmaster of Orangeburg Preparatory School, said the school would not make a final decision on its storm plan until noon Friday, though there is a strong possibility school will be closed Monday and Tuesday.

OCAB Head Start Centers in Orangeburg, Calhoun, Allendale and Bamberg counties will be closed Monday. In addition, Head Start Centers in Allendale County and Orangeburg County school districts 3 and 4 will close at noon Friday.

All Head Start Centers will open and close on the same schedules as their local public school districts.

A few colleges and universities have decided to close school out of safety concerns.

South Carolina State University, Claflin University and Denmark Technical College closed at 5 p.m. Thursday.

S.C. State said that all scheduled programs, activities and events were cancelled. All residential halls will close at noon Friday, and all students are encouraged to begin immediate evacuation.

Remaining S.C. State students will be required to take shelter at the on-campus emergency shelter, Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.

Claflin University said all evening classes and activities were cancelled until further notice. Essential employees are expected to report.

Beginning Friday, the University Dining Center will operate from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. for brunch and from 5 to 7 p.m. for dinner. There will be no late-night dining. Jazzman’s Café, Pizza Hut and the 1869 Club will be closed on Friday until further notice.

Anne Kline, Denmark Tech's public information coordinator, said while the college will be open for employees, classes had been cancelled beginning Thursday "until further notice to ensure safe travel for our students."

Voorhees College canceled all classes beginning on Friday. The campus will close at 8 a.m. Saturday until further notice.

All students remaining on campus will follow the brunch dining schedule beginning on Friday, Sept. 7.

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College said it is continuing to monitor the weather.

Several academies across The T&D Region announced closures, including Dorchester and Holly Hill academies, both of which will be closed Monday and Tuesday.

Holly Hill Academy Headmaster Garland Crump said the Holly Hill Academy Child Care facility will also be closed Monday and Tuesday.

Calhoun Academy Headmaster Becky Haigler said the school would likely make a decision on its plans on Friday. "We're just watching the weather," she said.

Wesley Christian School Administrator Peyton White said the school would be closed Monday and Tuesday.

Danielle Newhall, vice principal of Orangeburg Christian Academy, said, "We are going to actually not make a decision until Saturday, when we can find out really for sure what is going on with the storm."

Jamie Barnes, Andrew Jackson Academy headmaster, also said they would make a determination on whether to close their school over the weekend.

"We're going to kind of watch it as of now. And we're going to make a determination over the weekend and post it on our webpage, www.andrewjacksonacademy.org and put it on a Facebook page called Friends of Andrew Jackson Academy."

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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Staff Writer

Dionne Gleaton has been a staff writer with The T&D for 20 years. She has been an education reporter, regional reporter and currently writes features with an emphasis on health.

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