Charleston officials tout new schools for a new year

The main entrance to the new Harbor View Elementary School that opens on Monday, August 18, 2014. (Brad Nettles/Staff) 8/14/14

Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley said the district is ready to welcome students back on Monday along with more than 350 new teachers and 10 new principals.

McGinley gathered on Thursday along with top school district staff at the new Harbor View Elementary School on James Island to discuss the first day of school, which includes welcoming students to the new Harbor View campus as well as to the new Sullivan's Island Elementary and a new Center for Advanced Studies at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant. The district also is opening a renovated pre-kindergarten wing at James B. Edwards Elementary in Mount Pleasant and an improved West Ashley Middle, which is merging with St. Andrew's Middle.

"It's a big event for us every year for opening day," McGinley said.

McGinley said 60 percent of Charleston County schools will be starting the new academic year rated good or excellent. She said she's hopeful that number will rise when the state issues its annual school report card ratings later this year. The report cards are based on a variety of data, including standardized test scores and other markers of student achievement.

"We believe all children deserve to go to a school rated good or excellent," she said.

For Harbor View, which is rated excellent, McGinley said it is exciting to have a building that reflects the school's success.

"Now we have a building that matches the excellence that goes on at Harbor View every day," she said.

The new $26 million facility includes all new furniture and unique building features that reflect the school's location. Images of nearby McLeod Plantation adorn every hallway and a winding blue path along the floor mimics the Wappoo Cut.

Harbor View Principal Lara Latto is excited about the technology upgrades at the new building, which include wireless Internet and three computer labs. The old school only had one computer lab and no wireless Internet. As part of the opening of the new building, Latto said every classroom will have a set of six iPads.

Fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Tillman said being in a new school building is like "Christmas." Tillman said she is really impressed with all the new technology in the classrooms, including state-of-the-art smart boards. She also likes the child-friendly furniture, such as ergonomic chairs that allow students to rock and pivot while they're at their desks.

"They thought of everything for the whole kid," she said.