MARION, S.C. -- The Marion County School District has been busy educating, preparing and inspiring students this year with several new initiatives.
Recognizing the need to strengthen the academic foundation for the youngest learners, the district consolidated the pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds to the new Academy of Early Learning (AEL). Nine traditional 4K classrooms, two Montessori classes and three 3K programs are all under one roof, allowing for a consistent delivery of services aimed at decreasing the achievement gap.
Within this program, students were offered the ability to have access to an internet-enabled device connecting the students to Waterford, a digital early learning curriculum designed to help preschool-age children prepare to enter kindergarten. Students have responded well to this program, funded by a grant coordinated by S.C. Sens. Kent Williams and Vincent Sheheen, with teachers seeing gains in student achievement.
As the district looks forward to next year, plans are in place to expand the Montessori program to include first grade, so there will be classrooms at both AEL and North Mullins Primary School.
The inaugural year of the Early College Program housed at Mullins High School has high school freshmen taking dual-credit classes in association with their high school curriculum so when they graduate at the end of four years, they will have earned an associate’s degree along with their high school diploma. A second cohort will begin this program in the fall of 2018.
District and school leaders are busy with a five-year, $5 million federal grant, “Empowering Educators to Excel,” which will bring professional development to school-based leadership teams aimed at increasing student achievement. The E3 grant will focus on the recruitment, development and retention of teachers, teacher leaders and principals by engaging them in a wide variety of wrap-around support, including professional development, leadership academies, job-embedded coaching for administrators and teachers and the ability to network with similar districts from around the United States.
The district also has played host this year to the S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, who toured schools and spent time talking with school and district leaders about the needs of rural school districts in association with the Abbeville law suit as well as delegates from China who visited area schools in partnership with Coastal Carolina College of Education.
Through generous grant funding from the Marion Healthcare Foundation, third-grade students were able to travel to the state capital to tour buildings and offices associated with our state government, school nurses added trauma care kits to every school in the district and the adult education program will soon open their doors to a new facility that is linked to an industry training center in partnership with the economic development commission and the school district. This facility will open soon.
As this academic year ends, officials are evaluating all of the district’s initiatives and programs to see if they have been beneficial for their intended students. This data, along with other multiple data points, will be closely assessed and used as the district prepares for the 2018-19 academic year.