Aiken County School Board  DSC_0674

Aiken County School Board members Keith Liner, left, Dwight Smith, Tad Barber and Rosemary English listen to a discussion of the Waterford Early Learning System on Tuesday.

The Aiken County School Board voted to rescind a motion that would have renewed the Waterford Early Learning System through December at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13.

The Board then approved a motion not to renew the Waterford program and return the time 4K and 5K kindergarten students spend on the computer-based instruction to classroom instruction.

The motion did allow Aiken County Public Schools to keep the Upstart component of Waterford. Upstart allows 4 year olds who have not enrolled in the school district's in-school, full-day 4K programs because of limited space or ineligibility to receive 15-minute sessions at home with a parent and a Waterford facilitator.

Board member Jason Crane made the motion at the July 16 meeting to extend the Waterford program through December after the Board had approved an earlier motion not to renew the program for one year.

Crane made the motion to rescind his motion at Tuesday's meeting and also the new motion to not renew the program.

The motion will allow the district to evaluate other learning programs, which state law requires.

The votes to to rescind the July 15 motion and to not renew Waterford were five to four. Crane, Barry Moulton, Keith Linter, Dwight Smith and Brian Silas voted to rescind and to not renew. Sandra Shealey, Ahmed Samaha, Tad Barber and Rosemary English opposed both motions.

The Board also approved a motion made by Board member Barry Moulton to request the S.C. State Department of Education to complete an audit of the attendance and makeup policies of Aiken County Public Schools' high schools.

The motion passed again by a vote of 5-4 with Moulton, Liner, Silas, Smith and Crane voting for it, and Samaha, Shealey, Barber and English voting against it.

The audit also will look at the implementation of those policies, including the 52 students at Midland Valley High School who had more than 10 unexcused absences but had passing grades in their courses. The students were offered the option to makeup those unexcused absences during Saturday school.

During a presentation about making up attendance, Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford said the process of time recovery was in place before Carl White was named Midland Valley High's principal. He said White has made “positive changes in the process to make it more equitable and to have an academic focus.”

Alford said the makeup policy is included in Midland Valley High's student handbook as follows: “One hour of Saturday school is designed to make up one class absence (50 minutes). South Carolina state law gives the authority to school principals to manage attendance and monitor student absences. The principal, on a case-by-case basis, will review extenuating circumstances.”

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.