The safety of students and employees is our top priority as we finalize plans for the start of the new school year on September 8. We have offered our families a choice of two instruction plans for the 2020-21 school year -- a full-time Virtual Academy program and a hybrid/blended approach of 2 days in school and 3 days virtually, which reduces capacities in our schools and facilities to maximize safe distancing. Our ultimate goal, though, is to move to 5-day, in-person instruction as quickly and as safely as possible, based on a declining spread of COVID-19 cases in Lexington County and guidance from a number of sources.
Our 2020-21 Return to Schools Guide for Families offers a closer look at our instruction plans, as well as some of the health and safety measures we’ll be implementing on buses and in our schools and facilities. Among those steps is a mask requirement for all of our students and employees.
We’ll be updating families in August on more specifics for the start of the year. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support as we plan for the safe return of students and staff in these unprecedented times.
Dr. William B. James Jr.
REFLECTING ON 2019-20
While our focus is on the new school year ahead, there is much to be proud of from the 2019-20 school year -- including keeping the learning going with eLearning and continuing to provide free breakfast/lunch meals to students throughout spring and summer.
Here are a few other accomplishments.
Lexington Two ranks among the top 10 SC public school districts earning the highest average scores on the SAT college-entrance exam. Lexington Two’s Class of 2019 test-takers outperformed state and national averages. The average SAT score for Lexington Two is 1051 -- 30 points higher than the South Carolina average of 1021 and 12 points higher than the national average of 1039, the data shows. Our Class of 2019 ACT test-takers also posted year-over-year gains. The Class of 2019's roughly 450 grads earned a District record of $17.4 million-plus in college scholarships.
Lexington Two is the first area school district to partner with Midlands Tech on the career pathways program. Under this agreement, Midlands Tech will award dual enrollment or exemption credit for specified courses taken by our high school students pursuing academic and/or career pathways in several areas, among them engineering technologies, health care, information technology, and a number of careers in industrial and building fields. These students will be able to earn their academic credentials sooner and move into the workforce quickly. Lexington Two was also the first area district to partner with Midlands Tech on the Early College program, which allows students to earn college credit — and potentially an Associate Degree — during the regular high school day.
Four Lexington Two schools have earned Palmetto Silver Awards in the most recently released awards. Busbee Creative Arts Academy earned a Palmetto Silver Award in the 2018-19 year, while Fulmer Middle, PIneview Elementary (now Riverbank Elementary) and Saluda River Academy for the Arts earned Palmetto Silver Awards for 2017-18. The awards program was established by the Education Accountability Act of 1998 “to recognize and reward schools for academic achievement and for closing the achievement gap."
Other news of note: The District introduced a new grading system for our youngest learners, kindergarten through second grade, that provides parents a more detailed look at their child’s areas of mastery and improvement; implemented a new honors graduation program for high schoolers; and continued work on the final phase of our $225 million school construction program, approved by voters in 2014, with renovations at our two high schools and initial work under way on plans for our new performing arts center, off the 12th Street Extension in Cayce.
Our Board's budget plan allowed us to focus not only on important programs and resources for our students but to support priorities that our teachers have advocated for. Among them:
-- Reducing classroom sizes, to meet or exceed state guidelines, with averages we’ve set at 20-1 in elementary school, 24-1 in middle school, and 22-1 in high school core content classes.
-- Hiring mental health counselors to support school safety and meet the emotional health needs of our students.
-- Extending the contracts of assistant principals to a full year, to strengthen school-level leadership and mentorship.