“A good way forward:” Irmo High School parent assesses week one of the school’s special academy

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Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 9:39 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2022 at 10:50 PM EST
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IRMO, S.C. (WIS) -It’s been one week since Irmo High School debuted the NEST, its special academy to address students with the greatest behavioral needs.

The academy comes after a string of controversies at the school, including fights and allegations of sexual assault that culminated in a walkout on February 4.

When Lexington-Richland School District 5 Superintendent Dr. Akil Ross introduced the academy, he likened it to a school within a school.

“I don’t believe in bad kids,” he said. “And so this is not a way of identifying bad kids. I believe there are kids with unmet needs. And when you meet the needs of any child, they will succeed. This is intentionality in terms of meeting the needs of kids who have social issues.”

Students can self-select for the NEST, or may be recommended if they show a significant deficit in the areas of attendance, behavior or academics.

While Lexington-Richland 5 also has an alternative school called the Academy for Success, where students are referred due to disciplinary consequences, the NEST is unique to Irmo High.

In a statement, the district said, “[The NEST] is a model that is being used to help students who may need extra transition time after returning from The Academy For Success before they acclimate back to traditional learning.”

Lakeitha Brown, the parent of an Irmo High sophomore, said the NEST is “a good way forward” for Irmo High. While it may not be work out for every participating student, she believes most of them will see positive outcomes.

Brown thinks the NEST is already yielding positive results.

“I’m glad that they took action right now instead of just kicking the can down the road,” she said. “My student hasn’t mentioned any of the issues that they were having weeks prior too so it sounds like it’s going in the right direction.”

Brown feels that the district did the best they could to start this new academy given the resources that they have, but said parents also have a responsibility to bring ideas to the table.

She is urging more parents to get involved. Brown listened to Dr. Ross speak during the district’s board meeting on February 7 and town hall on February 8 but said she was surprised by how few parents voiced their safety concerns during these events.

“Parents and just the community itself needs to rally behind the leaders and then when they have better ideas, then they voice those ideas and hopefully that will allow the leadership to say ‘You know what, maybe we’ll implement that or we’ll implement this in what they already have,” Brown said. “But until they get that information from the community, they can only work with what they have.”

District officials announced earlier this week that Irmo High’s principal Dr. Robin Hardy will be on medical leave “for the next several weeks.” In the meantime, assistant principal Dr. Kaaren Hampton is overseeing the implementation of the special academy.

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