Lexington-Richland 5 reveals school reopening plans

Parents of District Five students should receive more information this week from the district. Understandably, this situation is very fluid.

From The State

Schools in the Lexington-Richland 5 school district are preparing to open for the 2020 fall semester on time next month, even if it means modifying how classes will operate in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Guidelines for reopening classes were announced at Monday’s school board meeting in Chapin. They foresee teachers returning to work Aug. 11, and students coming back Aug. 19.

When they return to campus, they will find social distancing enforced in all school facilities, in line with guidance from the S.C. Department of Education. There will be protocols for frequent hand-washing and sanitizing, including hand-sanitizing stations in classrooms and bathrooms. Educational spaces will be frequently cleaned, and local mask requirements will be followed.

Bus routes will also need to be adjusted to allow for more social distancing, with busloads cut in half and frequent cleaning.

School district staff are working on protocols for dealing with students or staff who develop symptoms of COVID-19, as well as any emotional support that students will need.

But specifics can be adjusted as the pandemic evolves, and parents will get more specific information from their schools in the next two weeks, said Superintendent Christina Melton.
Melton compared the guidelines to the weather alerts parents receive shortly before school hours have to be adjusted.

“This is where we are at this point, but it’s not necessarily where we will be later,” Melton said.
Plans can be adjusted after nine weeks, and after the end of the semester.

DHEC estimates 89% of COVID-19 patients in SC have recovered

NOTE article is from July 10th. When I posted this to my website, the recovery rate had risen from 88 to 92%. Link to that information is here. Photo is above.

DHEC estimates 89% of COVID-19 patients in S.C. have recovered


By WMBF News Staff | July 10, 2020 at 6:29 PM EDT – Updated July 13 at 7:49 AM
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control released new COVID-19 recovery numbers on Friday.

Agency officials said that as of July 9, DHEC has “symptoms onset data” for 24,280 people. Symptoms onset data means that the agency knows the date when a person first showed signs of illness.

According to DHEC, of those patients, 733 have passed away. Of the remaining 23,547, 89%, or 20,957 people, have recovered from the virus and 11% are estimated to remain ill.

DHEC outlined how they develop its recovery rate:

· Those who reported being hospitalized were deemed as “recovered” based upon having no reported adverse outcome reported as of > 32 days since their illness onset.

· Those who reported not being hospitalized were deemed as “recovered” based upon having no reported adverse outcome reported as of > 14 days since their illness onset.

· Those where hospitalization status was unknown were deemed as “recovered” based upon having no reported adverse outcome reported as of > 32 days since their illness onset.

The Palmetto Bowl – will they play this season?

There are certainly more important things in life; but this week I’ve received several calls about one of the country’s longest running football rivalries. NathansNews readers may recall in 2012 when I filed a bill to assure the series would always play. Well, it seems the series could be in jeopardy this year.

Currently, the rivalry is the 2nd-longest uninterrupted series in the country, behind Minnesota v. Wisconsin (1907). The two teams have played every year since 1909 and have played 117 times overall


He tried to lock South Carolina-Clemson into law. It’s now in doubt 8 years later
JULY 10, 2020 05:10 AM

Eight years later, Nathan Ballentine admits he’d probably take a different tact.

The South Carolina state representative from the Chapin area had been approached by a constituent, asking if the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry was held together in some way by state law. In a time when conference realignment signaled an end to some historic rivalries, Ballentine learned it was not and attempted to change that.

“Now that I’ve been there a little bit longer, I probably would just pick up the phone and call the presidents and the board members and have a discussion that way,” Ballentine, whose bill was ultimately voted down, said Thursday. “We’ve got other things we need to be working on but, I mean, I didn’t see a pandemic eight years ago.”

The current threat to the rivalry that started in the late 1800s and has been played continuously since 1909 is the novel coronavirus and what it could potentially do to college football schedules. The Big Ten announced Thursday it would go with conference-only schedules this fall, and the ACC is reportedly on a similar path.

If things were held strictly, no nonconference games for Clemson would mean no South Carolina game. The SEC has been operating on a slower timeline than some of the other schools, but its large set of contingencies includes at least one option for only conference games.

Looking at the present set of information, Ballentine wondered why if South Carolina was allowed to play SEC teams, it shouldn’t be able to arrange something with the Tigers. The Gamecocks’ 2020 conference schedule includes trips to Nashville (more than 440 miles by car) and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (two hours by plane or more than 700 miles).

“The thing that I don’t understand is, COVID doesn’t know what teams on the other side of the scrimmage,” Ballentine said. “If you’re gonna play conference games, why can’t you drive 100 miles to play an in-state rival that you’ve played for hundreds of years.”

He noted player safety is important, but wondered why a trip to Gainesville, Florida or Raleigh, North Carolina would be any more worrisome than a drive to the Upstate.

“Let’s be honest,” Ballentine, a South Carolina alum, said. “In this state, you’re either a Gamecock or a Tiger, with the exception of SC State and Furman, Citadel and stuff like that. It just means a lot to us.”

He also added sports would be a welcome distraction and that it would be a disappointment if football was played but the game didn’t happen.

Ballentine’s push to codify the in-state rivalry was actually not the first in South Carolina history. In the early 1950s, the Tigers were put on probation by the Southern Conference. Part of the punishment was not being able to play members of the 17-team league.

So the state general assembly passed a resolution mandating the teams play.

That almost assuredly won’t come to pass this time around. Should there be even a crack of leeway or a chance for a waiver, the teams will take it. At worst, the game would be valuable television property; at best, a chance to sell tickets in a year when departments will be hurting financially.

And it’s not close to a given there will even be conference-only football this fall. The Ivy League has pushed back to the spring, and it’s very possible other leagues will have to follow suit.

So how about South Carolina making the trip to Death Valley when the weather is starting to warm up?

“Let’s keep the player safety in mind first and foremost,” Ballentine said. “But, you know, football has always been a fall sport.

“Maybe doesn’t get played in the fall, maybe it’s just postponed. I think a postponement is better than a cancellation, that’s for sure.”

Text of Ballentine’s 2012 bill


Free COVID-19 testing – Tuesday, July 7th at Irmo High

Lexington Medical Center and SC DHEC will offer a free, drive-thru COVID-19 testing for the community at Irmo High School on July 7 from 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Community members do not need to have symptoms to be tested, but do need a valid ID and must wear a face mask.

Lake Murray 4th of July Fireworks

Lake Murray Country does more than just fireworks for our area and state, so be sure to check out everything they do by visiting their website!

Next week is probably the biggest event everyone knows about around here; if it’s your first time, be sure you and your family don’t miss out.

The Lake Murray Fireworks will be held on Saturday, July 4, 2020 at dusk (9:15pm). They will launch from Spence and Dreher Islands. They are best viewable by boat or on Dreher Island. Tune into WCOS 97.5 to hear the synchronized music show.

At this time, the Lexington Parksite at the Lake Murray Dam is not open.

Lake Murray’s July 4th Celebration is presented by Lexington Medical Center. A special thanks to our sponsors: Nephron Pharmaceuticals, First Community Bank, Palmetto Point, Dominion Energy, US Foods and Palm Beach Tan.

Poll: Face mask requirement for Richland County

Be sure to complete the survey by going to this link (note: you can always leave comments below on my website, but the only way to have the county get your answers is to complete at that link I just provided)

Richland County Council is seeking public input on an ordinance requiring residents to wear face coverings in public for the purpose of helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The City of Columbia is considering a similar ordinance. Please give County Council your input through this brief poll.

Note: Face coverings can include cloth or washable masks, as well as disposable surgical and N95 masks.

Richland County thanks you for your input.

Do you support a County ordinance requiring people to wear a face covering while in public?

* I have no opinion on the matter
* Yes, I think we need to do everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19
* No, the decision to wear a face covering in public is up to each individual
* Other:

AGAIN: be sure to complete the survey by going to this link (note: you can always leave comments below on my website, but the only way to have the county get your answers is to complete at that link I just provided)

Support to remove Tillman’s statue grows


COLUMBIA, S.C. — As crews work to remove Charleston’s statue of John C. Calhoun, other controversial statues are coming down across the country.

Lawmakers at the South Carolina State House said it’s time for a conversation about the building’s controversial monuments and statues.
The grounds of the South Carolina State House are under more scrutiny as historians and lawmakers grapple with what to do about controversial monuments and statues.

At least four statues on the grounds tie directly to the Confederacy, while other markers and memorials mention South Carolina’s Confederate past and involvement in the Civil War.

Inside the building, a statue of John C. Calhoun stands between the House and Senate chambers.

Robin Waites with Historic Columbia said they’ve taken the position it’s time for at least one of the State House’s statues to go.
“So the position that we have taken just this past week is connected directly to Benjamin Tillman, and that was in response to Representative Rose’s resolution that monument come down,” Waites said Wednesday.

The statue of Benjamin Tillman is the subject of a petition movement and lawmaker resolution demanding it be removed.

Tillman did not serve in the Confederacy, but was pro-lynching and also involved in the Hamburg Massacre, which led to the deaths of six African Americans. Tillman served as a politician in the Reconstruction Era through early 1900s.

His is just one statue recognizing the Civil War and pro-segregation Reconstruction Era of the state’s past.

Other statues and monuments inside and outside the building recognize Civil War military leaders, soldiers, nurses, and secession itself.

“I think anything that represents a history or glorification of white supremacy that is damaging to us being able as a community to move forward in an equitable way, then those need to be considered for removal,” Waites added.

Recently, the ‘Repeal the South Carolina Heritage Act’ group has called to repeal the Heritage Act and make other changes with petitions garnering more than 100,000 signatures combined.
Their main effort is to repeal the Heritage Act, which they say defends offensive monuments and statues, as well as building and park names.

The Heritage Act requires a two thirds General Assembly majority to remove, alter, or otherwise change war monuments and other memorials.

Lawmakers have different approaches to the issue, like Richland County Representatives Ivory Thigpen and Nathan Ballentine.

“I think you have to remove monuments that honor, particularly ideologies, that were so harmful and hurtful in the past. It really makes it hard to take someone at face value about being serious in moving forward as one state,” Thigpen said on Wednesday.

He called for the Confederate era monuments and statues to be moved to a museum.

“I think they are perfect items to be placed in a museum and I think in a museum, the role, the actual story behind them I think is the most appropriate place for them to be placed. I think that we can find other figures that are more unifying, I think we can celebrate and honor other stories and individuals,” Thigpen said.

Waites said museums are more equipped to add historical context to both what the monuments or statues are honoring, and what was going on in the time period in which they were created.

Representative Nathan Ballentine, a Republican representing Lexington and Richland Counties, said lawmakers should decide how far to go.

“The thing comes eventually to where do we stop this? Certainly, from my colleagues, from people I talk to, if you want to bring it close to home here to the State House; the Ben Tillman statue is one that is very offensive. Could we make an exception for that? That’s probably something I could support. But the bigger picture is why are we looking to bring everything down? Instead of building up?” Ballentine said.

Ballentine said it’s time to have a conversation and discuss the future of the various monuments, but stopped short of calling for universal removal.

“There are 170 people here that represent people throughout the state, that don’t look the same, don’t talk the same, etc. I’m cognizant of that, and that’s why I’m willing to have the conversation and I’m willing to reach across the aisle, I know that’s a cliché. Again, if the Ben Tillman statue is the most oppressive, and that’s the one that has the most consistence and the votes are there to remove that, I can remove that. But we cannot continue to remove and rewrite history. Let’s instead of tearing things down, let’s build them up,” Ballentine said.

The Richland and Lexington Republican said lawmakers should focus on criminal justice reforms, which he said would lead to helping more people

He also said the state should consider adding more monuments to the State House grounds, like the existing African American History monument.

However, both lawmakers agreed at least one change should be considered in the Heritage Act. Thigpen and Ballentine said they support colleges and universities having the freedom to change building names without General Assembly approval.

Meet Sarah Gams : 2021 South Carolina Teacher of the Year

From District Five’s website:

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, Lexington-Richland School District Five superintendent Dr. Christina Melton, and others surprised Sarah Gams at her home today with news that she was selected as the 2021 South Carolina Teacher of the Year.

“The role of speaking on behalf of all South Carolina teachers and helping them navigate through the upcoming school year will require tremendous leadership,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “Sarah has shown throughout her career her ability to rise to the occasion and meet the needs of students wherever they are. She is most deserving of this honor and the attributes she possesses will be invaluable assets as she helps to lead our state and the teaching profession forward.”

Sarah Gams says a love for teaching and learning was probably embedded in her DNA from her parents who are both retired educators. With school as a second home, teaching was always her dream career. An avid reader and writer, Sarah majored in English at the Honors College of the University of South Carolina and earned her Master of Arts in Teaching. Sarah studied abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she discovered a passion for travel and the global classroom. Believing that multicultural experiences create global citizens, she partnered with Education First (EF) Tours in 2006 and has led nine student tours to Europe and other countries. She was a keynote speaker for EF in Paris, France. To share her love of reading and promote parental involvement, Sarah created Community Book Club to discuss books each month. Sarah earned National Board certification in 2007 and re-certified in 2017. Sarah currently serves as a cooperating teacher for student teachers. As an adjunct professor, Sarah teaches Young Adult Literature, English Methods in Education, and APEC Module 3, a graduate program for teacher certification. After sixteen years in the classroom, teaching middle school, high school, and graduate courses, Sarah still loves the teaching profession. She believes her greatest accomplishment is providing a strong foundation in literacy for her students to pursue personal and career goals. Through her active support of the next generation of teachers, Sarah makes a positive and long-lasting impact on the future of the education profession.

“We are beyond excited for Mrs. Gams and the entire School District Five community,” said Lexington-Richland School District Five Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton. “At a time when education has been challenged and changed, Mrs. Gams represents the best of what teaching is in South Carolina. In Mrs. Gams, her students and peers have a champion and advocate who leads with passion and by example. Throughout her career, she has shown that the impact educators have on their students go beyond the school walls, and I know she will be an excellent ambassador for our field of public education. Congratulations, Mrs. Gams.”

As part of the state Teacher of the Year awards program, Sarah receives a total of $25,000 and is provided with a brand new BMW to use while serving for one year as a roving ambassador providing mentoring, attending speaking engagements, working with teacher cadets and teaching fellows, leading the State Teacher Forum, and serving as the state spokesperson for over 50,000 educators.

Sarah and the four finalists, or Honor Roll teachers, will be celebrated at the South Carolina Teacher of the Year Gala, which has been postponed and will be rescheduled for later this year.

Considered one of the country’s strongest, the South Carolina Teacher of the Year program celebrates excellence and strengthens the teaching force by honoring and recognizing exceptional teachers on a district, state, and national level. These awards not only assist in retention efforts but serve as a powerful recruitment tool.

Meet Matthew Calhoun – Chief of SC Bureau of Protective Services

Matthew P. Calhoun, a 21-year veteran of the Bureau of Protective Services (BPS), was chosen to succeed Chief John Hancock, who retires July 1 after 28 years of service to the state.

“The sign of a good leader is preparing those in the wings to succeed,” said S.C. Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) Acting Director Robert Woods. “It has been my privilege to work alongside both these men through the years. They have shown exemplary leadership during some difficult times in our state and have been instrumental in keeping the employees and visitors at our State House Complex, Governor’s Mansion and other state buildings safe.”

For Calhoun, currently a major and the Assistant Chief at BPS, being selected as the next commander of BPS was “a lifelong dream that came to fruition.”

“I’d aspired to serve the department in whatever capacity that I was assigned to, but it was always a dream to serve in this position and be able to provide leadership for the officers at BPS and work closely with our sister divisions within SCDPS – the Highway Patrol and State Transport Police,” said Calhoun, a 1994 graduate of Barnwell High School.

When he officially takes over as Chief of BPS on July 2, Calhoun will be responsible for overseeing 72 officers who are responsible for ensuring the safety of citizens, employees, elected representatives and those attending events or visiting or conducting business on the grounds of the S.C. State Capitol Complex and other designated state facilities.

“I want to build young officers to be the next leaders in law enforcement and the state of South Carolina,” said Calhoun, who wants to ensure his officers have the equipment and training they need to do their jobs effectively.

Calhoun joined SCDPS in 1999 after earning a criminal justice degree from the University of South Carolina. Before serving as Assistant Chief of BPS, Calhoun was the field commander for the agency’s State House and Judicial divisions, a training officer, and he oversaw field operations for the Governor’s Mansion, State Agency Support Division and Special Operations. His career has allowed him to meet many dignitaries, including presidential candidates, and witness history, such as when the Confederate flag was removed from the state Capitol grounds.

In 2017 Calhoun joined a prestigious group comprised of less than 1 percent of the country’s law enforcement officers when he completed the FBI National Academy. The FBI National Academy allowed Calhoun the opportunity to “find the best practices” by learning from the experiences of other law enforcement officers, which will assist him in better protecting citizens, legislators, the governor and other leaders.

He is the son of Phillip and Jeanne Calhoun of Irmo, formerly of Barnwell. Calhoun is married to Lori Weeks Calhoun, also a Barnwell County native, and they have two children, Olivia and Andrew, both 18.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety includes the Highway Patrol, State Transport Police, Bureau of Protective Services, Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs, Immigration Enforcement Unit and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame. Their mission is to ensure public safety by protecting and serving the people of South Carolina and its visitors.

UPDATE: District Five School Re-entry Plan 2020-2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges and disruptions to every aspect of daily lives, including education. As we move into the 2020-2021 school year, School District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties remains committed to the safety and well-being of its students, staff and community members.

School District Five has created a new web page designed to provide information about the district’s reentry plans, as details become available. Information will be updated and shared with families online and through our automated communications system.

The district’s School Reentry Plan for the 2020-2021 school year will be shared with families and the community during the week of July 13.

Click this link to view the web page.