Hilton Head, Bluffton students head back to school

Few hiccups reported Monday

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comAugust 19, 2013 

COURTESY OF MORGUEFILE.COM

Some Hilton Head Island teachers worked to keep tempers and temperatures cool Monday, passing out bottles of cold water as parents waited in humid, 86-degree heat to pick up their children from school.

The Beaufort County School District’s 2013-14 academic year started with only handful of minor hiccups, officials say.

KEEPING COOL

Gretchen Keefner, principal of Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, said Monday was the “smoothest” first day of school in her 23 years as a principal — thanks in no small part to her staff and to many parents who attended a meet-and-greet last Friday.

“So for a lot of students, today didn’t feel like the first day of school because they had already been here before,” Keefner said.

The one hitch? The heat.

Instead of lining up outside under a canopy after school, students were dismissed by teachers from the gym to waiting cars. Teachers with hand-held radios stood at the end of the school’s driveway and relayed numbers on a tag hanging from a car’s rearview mirror, which correspond to a suitcase tag on a child’s backpack.

“Safety and security is the top thing we worry about, and (we) felt it was safer to dismiss from the gym,” Keefner said. The procedure meant dismissal took about 20 minutes longer than usual, Keefner said.

BLUFFTON HIGH SCHOOL

A handful of sophomores on Monday began a pilot program aimed at boosting their knowledge of engineering and extending college credit.

The Accelerate program is part of a partnership with the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. Bluffton High is one of eight high schools in the state participating in the program, which allows students to participate in online classes taught by Governor’s School teachers and connect with peers across the state.

The courses follow a college schedule and meet three days a week. On the days they don't meet, students will work together on hands-on projects, according to school officials.

Those completing the program earn a year of college credit and could begin as sophomores at the University of South Carolina, The Citadel, Clemson or S.C. State University, according to the Governor’s School.

NEW LUNCH PLAN

An old online lunch-payment system was incompatible with updated software installed in cafeteria lunch lines, so the district switched from MyLunchMoney.com to PayPAMS.com, according to Phyllis White, the district’s chief of operations.

No problems were reported with the new system, and remaining balances on the old system were transferred to the new vendor. Fliers were handed out to parents last week at school open houses and given to principals to share.

Students are still allowed to pay cash for their lunch or send a check to school.

White said the new point-of-sale system allows student ID cards to be scanned for payment, rather than inputting each student’s ID number. It also is integrated with a student-information system that allows schools to identify transfer students eligible for free and reduced-priced lunches. White said PayPAMS, like the old MyLunchMoney system, will send email reminders when account balances run low, schedule automatic payments, and allow the user to view daily purchases and menus.

“It’s just a different name,” White said of the new system.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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