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By Erin Smith

The 2018-19 academic year will be the first year for the Bladen County Early College. The Board of Education heard an update from Principal Rodney Smith regarding how things are progressing towards the school opening.

Smith told the board the first day of school for the Early College will be August 6th and the school will be housed on the campus of Bladen Community College (BCC) in Building No. 17.

The Early College mascot will be a Nighthawk and currently there are 50 students who have been accepted and are already enrolled in courses. Smith added applications for the Early College will continue to be accepted and reviewed through July 1.

Smith said there are activities planned to help establish relationships between Early College staff and the students and parents. On July 23rd, there will be a picnic from 5 until 7 p.m. where parents and students will be given information regarding the Early College and receive a building tour. On August 2nd, the Early College will host an Open House and students will receive their laptops during that time.

Smith also told the board the Early College personnel, in addition to himself, will consist of a College Curriculum Liaison Specialist, a Data Manager/Office Assistant, four Core Content Teachers, and a Guidance Counselor.

Smith also briefly discussed a Memorandum of Understanding which was approved later n the meeting. The memorandum establishes guidelines for the responsibilities of the Bladen County Board of Education and Bladen Community College.

The meals for the Early College will consist of hot meals not pre-packaged meals, said Smith. He noted that students will be served both breakfast and lunch.

In other business, the board heard from Jason Atkinson regarding new technology called Go Guardian. He told the board the school district has been piloting Go Guardian for a few weeks and are moving forward with purchasing it. The program adds an additional layer of filtering to the computer network for the school district.

Atkinson said teachers and administrators are complaining that students were off task and managing to thwart the existing filtering service to go to websites which are not approved for academic use. He said the school district will have the ability to add websites to be blocked, unblock certain websites, or to adjust access as needed by teachers and administrators.

Atkinson added Go Guardian also has the ability to track a lost or stolen device.

The Board of Education also discussed resurfacing the tracks at East Bladen and West Bladen High Schools. Facility Services Director Lou Nelon discussed these facilities upgrades and was asked about the tennis courts. He told the board the tennis courts are included in the list. He said the district staff have contacted contractors in the Raleigh area regarding repairs to the tennis courts.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor also told the board that with regards to the track, it had been suggested to consider resurfacing the track at Elizabethtown Middle School. The track at Elizabethtown Middle School is used by the public and hosts such evens as Relay for Life and Special Olympics.

Dr. Taylor siad the district staff has learned that in order to host a regional competition, the track surface cannot be asphalt. The tracks at both East Bladen and West Bladen high schools are asphalt.

Nelon said resurfacing and upgrading the track at Elizabethtown Middle School is most likely easiest project.

Dr. Taylor also reviewed two proposals for the 2019-20 academic calendar. He told the board the district staff are studying how best to align the academic calendar so that high school students are completing exams and testing for the first semester before they are dismissed for Christmas break. Seven school districts have already moved to a similar calendar.

Dr. Taylor explained that schools must demonstrate students are receiving either 1,025 instructional hours or 180 days.

One concern for the proposed calendar changes is how it will impact the school lunch program. Director of Child Nutrition Amy Stanley said the proposed calendar realignment could potentially lead to a net loss of up to $300,000 per year for the school lunch program.

The board did not make an decision regarding the calendar.

The board voted to approve the certified/classified personnel list as presented. The board also approved the CTE Local Plan.

The board postponed a decision on the BCC Advisory Board nominee and Fall Custom Policy Updates.