FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The First Annual State of the Schools Address, put on by Florence School District One, was held Thursday morning.
Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges spoke in front of a crowd at the Southern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, which included community members, teachers, city councilmen and school board members.
Bridges wants to create a sense of urgency when it comes to change in the district. There are a total of 25 school sites and 16,445 students, which is up from the last school year. According to the superintendent, students have advanced placement scores three years in a row and there are a total of 471 students taking part in the dual credit enrollment at Florence Darlington Technical College.
During the address, Bridges wanted to give school district data and accomplishments, and also share new initiatives. He believes there are four education themes he wants people to see inside the campus of all of the schools - literacy, math, technology and early childhood learning.
Bridges shared with the people that the district's No. 1 goal is safety, and thinks every parent needs to know when their child goes to school in the morning, they are going to come home safely at the end of the day. He said he is also focused on keeping attendance high, retaining teachers and keeping class sizes small.
"This event this morning was geared more toward some of our community leaders, some of our internal customers, just to kind of say, 'Here is some things going on in our district that we are proud of and at the same time here's some things that are very challenging for us and we need help with those,'" he said. "Not just the school district, but this community."
One of the proposals on the table for the school board is grade configuration. Right now, Florence One elementary schools hold grade kindergarten through sixth grade. From there, students move into grades seventh and eighth at a different school before going to high school.
"We look at the numbers in schools, demographics, transportation, child attrition, teacher transfer and all those things that staff can get into the nuts and bolts of, things we need to narrow first," Bridges said.
The new plan can raise some concern for parents and teachers because it's something they are not used to. Sissy Smith has one student at Royall Elementary and also teaches at Wilson High School.
"It's a little culture shock to go from a K-to-sixth to a sixth-to-eighth atmosphere," she said.
Bridges said it is a legitimate concern, and what school officials would like to do is present the community and parents with a plan. However, he believes restructuring the schools will lead to a better teaching and learning environment, a model he said is used in the majority of both state and national school districts.
Smith agrees the improved learning environment should be at the forefront of the district's mind.
"It means the community has to be willing to help and vote for increases, and increases in taxes as well to fund these buildings," she said.
There are a total of 184 mobile classrooms throughout the district, so Bridges said by making this grade change, it could also alleviate some of that overcrowding.
This new model will lessen the number of students in elementary schools and get those students out of mobile units. Academic improvements is the goal of all the school district's decisions, Bridges said.