Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley said there shouldn’t be any excuse for students missing the first day of school Wednesday.
If parents have questions about uniforms, transportation or meals, more than a dozen school district staff members are manning a hotline — the number, 937-6366, will be available from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. through Friday — and are ready to help, she said.
“We need you as partners, not only on the first day, but throughout the school year,” she said.
McGinley gathered on Monday top district staff and local leaders to talk about the first day. Those present, including Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and a representative for North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, underscored improvements in school safety, specifically the increased police presence for Charleston and North Charleston elementary schools.
“We’re doing everything that we can to make schools secure,” she said.
The Charleston Police Department will continue to station 12 school resource officers at middle and high schools. An additional 19 police officers will work in clusters to support those same schools, as well as elementary schools, Riley said.
“They will be in schools on a regular basis,” he said. “All they’re working on is schools.”
Riley proposed and helped pass the tax increase this spring to cover the additional officers for 35 public and private elementary schools. Elementary schools typically haven’t had that kind of police protection, and Riley pushed for it on the heels of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
In North Charleston, school resource officers were added to elementary schools in the middle of the 2012-13 school year, and they will continue serving those schools this year, said Kyle Lahm, coordinator of the mayor’s office on education, youth and family. The city has a total of 35 officers serving the schools in its jurisdiction.
Personnel aside, district staff have gone through extensive reviews and upgrades of school safety procedures, such as adding cameras and requiring ID’s to enter schools.
McGinley started the tradition of speaking to media before the school year starts six years ago when she learned more than 3,000 of the district’s students weren’t in school on the first day.
She repeated her plea to parents to be a part of their children’s first day of school, and said the first day and week matter.
“Walk to their class and meet their teacher,” she said. “We welcome you into our buildings.”
She asked all county residents to allow themselves extra time to get to work because little ones may be walking to a bus stop for the first time.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.