FDTC plans scaled-down graduation ceremony
By Samantha Lyles
As the COVID-19 pandemic altered the graduation ceremonies for area high school students, so will the pandemic impact an upcoming commencement ceremony for Florence-Darlington Technical College.
At their Sept. 22 meeting, the FDTC Commission for Technical Education learned that only 136 students plan to receive their diplomas in person at the Oct. 27 at the Florence Center. With social distancing regulations in place, each student will be given three tickets for their family and friends.
“We can have 500 people at the Florence Center, but we’re not going to need that,” said Ed Bethea, FDTC interim president.
Bethea noted that faculty would not be attending the event, and only he and one other FDTC representative would be onstage to conduct the ceremony. When he asked whether any board members would be present, chairperson Dr. Leroy Robinson declined on the basis of public health concerns.
“It’s not something I feel comfortable attending,” said Robinson, adding that he would not require or encourage other board members, faculty, or staff to be present at “potentially a super-spreader event.” Other commission members, including Dr. Bill Boyd, agreed that they would not attend due to health concerns.
In other matters, VP of Business Affairs Douglas Lange said the college now has $4.3 million in cash on hand, an increase of $1.8 million over this time last year. He said this year marks the first time in three years the school has has a positive change in net position (plus about $500,000 this year; minus $2.5 million last year and minus $4 million the previous year).
Board member Hood Temple asked how long that cash on hand could sustain the college as a contingency fund. Lange replied the money would cover all expenses for 45 to 60 days, which still falls short of FDTC’s goal of 90 days cash on hand.
Lange also presented encouraging news about three long-planned facility improvements around campus: a walkway bridge costing $1 million, a new roof for the 600 Building costing $675,000, and a “life safety” package of surveillance systems and classroom door locks for $800,000. Lange said that the S.C. Department of Administration recently cleared FDTC to proceed with these projects and procurement actions and construction scheduling are already underway.
Board members were presented with engineering concept drawings and Lange explained how the walkway bridge would improve accessibility and safety for everyone.
“We would get rid of that grand staircase that floods when it rains – it looks like a waterfall or whitewater rafting. It’ll go away and we’ll restore the hillside, and you’ll have grade-level access from the higher part of the campus straight into the (5000) building at the third floor level as it exists today, and then you can use the elevator,” said Lange, adding that the ingress and egress would be handicap accessible.
“I think that’s the best news of the night, because we can finally do these deferred maintenance things,” said Bethea. “That’s something we’ve been waiting on for three years and it looks like we can move forward.”