Academic failures within the district were discussed at length during the committee meeting for the Lincoln County Board of Education held on Nov. 13. Failure rates, for one class or more, in the first quarter are at approximately three times the rate as they were last year at this time, according to Dr. Heath Belcher, Lincoln County Schools assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.  Overall, 20% of students in the middle and high schools are failing one or more courses. Some schools have a failure rate of 21% while others at upwards of 41%. The median range within the middle and high schools is 30%. 

Work is being done on auditing some of the courses to see which students are failing multiple courses and trying to determine if these students are not doing their work the other three days of the week or if they are remote learners and just not logging in at all. 

“A lot of our students are working during the day,” Belcher said. “They’ve taken on additional work hours and trying to maintain their schoolwork in the evening. We’ve done analytics and there are times during the week that students are logging at 3 and 4 a.m. doing their schoolwork. Naturally, that’s problematic and leads to some other areas of concern.”

Remediation budget funds have been released to schools so students can have access to that money, according to Belcher. High schools have been provided twice as much remediation budget funds that they usually receive.

Teachers have reached out to those students who are failing and are attempting to establish academic contracts to recover academic loss so that the students don’t fail in the second quarter or fail the course altogether and not receive credit or, as it pertains to middle school, falling further behind on fundamental skills. 

The additional remediation that Belcher suggested was to start offering bus transportation to bring those students who were failing to school on Wednesdays for focused intervention. Also, in the second quarter, offering a fifth period course to regain credit that was loss if a course was failed and revisiting summer school.

“Summer school would come at a high price tag for effective implementation,” he said. “Typically, we have spent $20,000 on summer school and that has been limited to around 10 days or so. I would recommend that we look at offering summer school over a one-month period in June for four weeks, that would be two weeks of summer session one and summer session two. I also recommend that we offer transportation. Then students would be able to recover two credits. I would anticipate a budget need of around $200,000 to provide the instruction and transportation. This would be a two-year plan because we anticipate this will be a problem going forward.”

Currently, LCS is working in an asynchronous model, but with laptops scheduled to arrive in January, Belcher said that he feels confident that they can get their teachers trained and roll out a synchronous model to establish a daily routine. 

Some high school students have dropped out completely. Belcher said that they are looking at alternatives to prevent dropouts, but they’re seeing a high number of students requesting to drop out. This is being seen in higher rates at Lincolnton and West Lincoln High Schools. 

Board Member Heather Rhyne asked if there was a way the district could petition the state to request permission to have students return to school for four days of face to face instruction. She also wondered what other districts were doing.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Aaron Allen said that he thought the failure issue was being felt both state and nationwide due to remote learning.

“I did some research to see if there were any high schools operating on five days a week and there are not that are operating under what we refer to as Plan A,” Belcher said. “The only districts that I found that are doing four days a week are ones that are bringing in special populations which we do to provide that option to high schools. I have not found any that are doing it for all students.”

Allen suggested that the board reach out to the community to get the message out to the workforce to not schedule high school students for work during the school day. School sports may also be affected based on the current failure rate.

Board member D. Todd Wulfhorst asked why synchronous learning couldn’t begin now. Belcher told him that there aren’t enough laptops to do so. Board member Joan Avery wondered if the lack of laptops was just on the western side of the county. Belcher said it was countywide.

In other matters, the board voted to postpone traditional graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020, originally scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 1 be postponed until May 28-June 2, 2021.

The board recognized Lincoln County United Way and Lincolnton Lowes for awarding Lincoln County Schools Central Services with a refrigerator and a freezer to assist with community food distribution. In addition, Lowes Heroes donated and spread 150 bags of mulch on the playground which serves EC/Pre-K students who are on campus for assessment screenings.

North Lincoln High School was recognized as the recipient of the Timken Foundation of Canton grant in the amount of $85,000. This grant was awarded in support of a school/community effort to enhance the soccer programs for the high school and its feeder area.

Innovator Award recipients for the first nine weeks were named. These awards recognizes staff, students, or community members that have shown their ability to think through situations, found creative ways to solve problems, were tenacious in seeing a task through, connected with local students/community like never before or integrated subjects that made students excited about the content.

Monica Smith, a physical education teacher at St. James Elementary School received an award. Back in August, knowing everyone's job was going to be different and more difficult, Smith honestly did not know how physical education classes could happen. She began the year by leading the physical education teacher share session for the district. She then worked out a schedule with our other special area teachers that would allow each class to have physical education (and every other special class) once every three weeks. It doesn't seem like a lot, but all things considered, it was all they could do. During each class's physical education time, Smith takes them outside when she is able. Students participate in a variety of physical activities as well as games that allow them to social distance and have fun. When the weather does not accommodate, Smith has an arsenal of indoor activities that get the kids moving and laughing such as NetFLEX" (like Netflix but "flex"). Students are able to login to Google Meet using the school access code and Smith leads them through a physical education lesson in their homes.

Logan Spake, a physical education teacher at Pumpkin Center Primary School created videos to show students and parents how to use basic household items such as a napkin, a paper plate, old socks, an empty milk jug, old t-shirts or a plastic grocery bag to create and assemble a physical education personal packet to be used at home or during a physical education class.  Students can use these kits at recess or at home for physical education.  Students can follow the instructions on the videos to make items that will help them meet the physical education standards such as tossing, catching and juggling. Spake’s innovative thinking allows all students to engage in physical activity using everyday items that are at their disposal.  He models using these items in class to show students how easy and fun it is to create their own play equipment.

Tessa Metcalf, a third-grade student at North Brook Elementary School started designing earrings and hair bows in June. She called her new business “Tessa's Bowtique.” Her mother sold the hairbows and earrings online through social media. Metcalf then used the profits to purchase groceries for the school’s backpack program. 

The board voted to limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups or organizations inside the school facilities through Dec. 18.

The board approved the West Lincoln High School staff request to name the high school press box in honor of Wayne Navey and to name the old high school gymnasium in honor of Forest “Butch” Ross.

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