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Five takeaways from last week's Orange County School Board meeting


The Orange Country School Board Chair Will Atherton opens a meeting on Monday August 26, 2019.

The Orange County School Board discussed school safety, year-round calendar systems and various other initiatives for the schools at its meeting last week.

This meeting was the first for the new superintendent of Orange County Schools, Monique Felder. Here's what you missed: 

Security upgrades

Security upgrades have been a topic of discussion at the Board meetings, but at this meeting, the plans to implement the upgrades were confirmed. The plan is expected to be approved by January or February, with upgrades beginning immediately after that.  

During the public comments, a parent expressed his concerns about the current state of security of Orange County schools. The school district has seen several threats of violence this school year. This parent also emphasized that he was not only concerned about his own children, but for the teachers as well.  

Student tip line

The Say Something system, a movement to allow students to voice when they feel there is a threat to their school, was presented to the Board as a possible way to keep students safe.   

It provides an app, website and hotline for youth and adults to submit anonymous tips about individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others. The tips would be sent to an all-hour multilingual crisis center and then school officials and law enforcement.  

Sherita Cobb, student support director for OCS, said there may be costs for the school district to put together teams to vet calls and train students to use the software.  

The Board would be able to periodically receive information about the content of the report. Board member Stephen Halkiotis said he appreciates the prioritization of student safety that the system aims to fulfill.  

“This reporting system is critically, critically important,” he said.  

Year-round calendar

The year-round calendar program at Hillsborough Elementary was discussed at the meeting, but not in the way parents were expecting.  

There was some confusion at the end of the Board meeting when the agenda said the year-round calendar program at Hillsborough Elementary was a topic of discussion. Parents were not sure of what this would mean, so many parents came and spoke to defend the year-round calendar, including a teacher from Hillsborough Elementary. 

Since the discussion revolved around renovations, the Board was confused as to why parents were worried about the program being taken away. Board members reassured the parents they supported the year-round program, and they also supported having it as an option along with the traditional calendar.  

Student discipline alternatives

Boomerang, an organization that allows students an alternative to short-term suspensions, presented in front of the Board to get funding for students to be transported to their location in Hillsborough.  

Its programs focus on college and career advising, the transition back to the classrooms and re-engagement strategies for students on short suspensions. 

Board chairperson Will Atherton said he appreciates the details in Boomerang’s Hillsborough site, which is housed in the Orange Works Employment and Training Center. 

The organization hopes to receive $30,000 for transportation to the program’s site from the district. 

Physical education

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The Dr. Charles van der Horst Water Safety Initiative was proposed as a partnership between Orange County Schools and the Orange County Sportsplex to provide resources for youth-focused water safety programs.  

The initiative proposes to transport second graders to swimming pools to teach water safety and swimming lessons. These trips would begin in Spring 2020 as part of the physical education curriculum.  

Jonathan Klein, board chairperson of the initiative, said he hopes the Board approves the memorandum. If passed, OCS would provide transportation to and from the Orange County Sportsplex, and the Orange County Commissioners would waive the pool fee at Sportsplex. 

Halkiotis said he supports the program and that the county's purchase of Sportsplex was necessary to the County.  

“It wasn’t a waste of money, and it wasn’t a waste of time,” he said.  

The next step for this initiative is another Board discussion after the attorney finishes drafting the Memorandum of Understanding, Atherton said.  


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