By Al Dozier

Lexington-Richland District 5 schools will soon enter the next phase of a reopening plan that will eventually bring most students back to face-to-face classroom instruction, according to announcements at Monday’s board meeting.

Superintendent Christian Melton outlined phase 2 of the plan, which brings back K-2nd graders four days a week beginning October 5.

The district is currently operating in a hybrid model where students attend half the week in person and the other half virtually.

Two weeks later, on October 19, students from third to sixth grade will return to a four-day schedule. And beginning November 9, students in seventh to 12th grades will move to the four-day schedule.

Students will also have the option to continue to use an all-virtual model, and students will have the option to change their preference once the next phase of reopening begins.

“We do things to be safe in our operations, and responsive to our community,” Superintendent Christina Melton said.

The announcement comes as the district has been showered with complaints that students are not coping well with virtual learning and need to return to the classroom. About 100 people in the District 5 community participated in a protest march featuring posters and chants outside Irmo High School at the September 14 board meeting.

 At Monday’s meeting, the board rated Superintendent Melton’s performance for the 2019-2020 School Year as “outstanding” after completing an annual evaluation. The board also provided her a one-year contract extension that extends through 2023. Melton has served as superintendent since 2018.

 In other action, a selection was announced for a school mascot for the new Piney Woods Elementary School.

Three options were available for the community to choose from: the Purple Martins, the Bears or the Ospreys. With just more than 54 percent of the votes out of over 2,300 submissions, the Purple Martin will be the mascot of Piney Woods Elementary School. 

“I am grateful to our community for participating in helping us name our mascot, the Purple Martins,” said Piney Woods Elementary School principal Cassy Paschal. “We greatly appreciate their support and cannot wait to start working on our school logo, colors and so much more with this decision by the School District Five community. I am so excited to be a Piney Woods Purple Martin.” 

Purple Martins migrate south to South Carolina every year in the summer to roost on Bomb Island, the largest purple martin sanctuary in North America, located in Lake Murray. The birds attract visitors to the lake around dusk when they can be seen swarming together and circling around the island.

Naming Committee member Norman Agnew said of the choice, “I love the Purple Martins. I think just like the Piney Woods name for the school, tying the community in, the purple martins obviously pays great homage to the lake and the area that we live in, I think it is an awesome tie in.”