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Rock Hill Schools start year with big changes

From the preschool all the way to the high school, Rock Hill school district has implemented big changes this school year.

One of the biggest changes across the district is with the lunch program. Breakfast and lunch has been free for all Rock Hill students in the past, but this year, lunch will now be $1.50 for elementary students and $2.00 for those who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches. The breakfasts will still be provided free of charge for all students.

Wes Hairston, superintendent, said it was not a decision he took lightly.

“It was a very difficult recommendation to make,” Hairston said. “That’s something I take full responsibility for. As much as (the free lunch program) did offer, it’s something we can’t offer any more,” he said.

Hairston said the goal is to keep the food at an affordable price, while offering more healthful food and with more choices then they’ve ever had. The change this year is on a trial basis.

“It will save our district a lot of money and we’d rather put it back in the academic track providing a better education for our students,” he said. “The board would have certainly chosen to continue to provide a free lunch, and sometimes the decisions are difficult. (The lunch program) has lost a lot of money for a lot of years and just had to be addressed.”

For the employees, a workout facility was added at the Middle School, with a lot of the money donated by Medical Mutual, the insurance carrier at the time when the project was started.

Title I stimulus money helped to fund the district preschool this year, which also offers daycare and after-school care.

Rock Hill Middle School made a new change with David Hopper becoming the new assistant principal.

Changes have been made in the elementary and middle schools to help improve education and testing scores. Hairston said the testing for the elementary and middle schools have been inconsistent over the years

In the elementary school, Hairston said they reorganized staff in areas that would allow them to provide more intervention, improve tests scores and achieve academic elevation.

In the middle school, block scheduling has been incorporated this year.

“We feel like with the new block scheduling, this is a big change and we know that,” Hairston said. “What the block scheduling allows us to do is to focus more on core classes like reading and math. We’ve done some very intense training. Our teachers are excited about and we are confident our test scores are going to increase.”

Additional middle school changes are a new computer lab, funded by stimulus money, and a second family and consumer science teacher, which was funded by a grant.

Rock Hill High School received a grant this year as well to assist in an ACT preparatory program. This will help to cover the cost for testing for students.

“We hope to help students with a greater need first but it will be offered on a first come first serve basis,” Hairston said.