Whether to your excitement or dismay, summer days are numbered. We took a break from splashing at the pool to catch up with officials from each of the local school districts to learn about what’s new for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. Here’s what parents and students need to know:
Located in one of the fastest-growing counties in South Carolina, Berkeley County School District is one of the largest in the state. While the rapid population growth will certainly continue to cause some growing pains for students, parents and faculty, the associated increase in tax revenue will help make noticeable improvements for the upcoming school year.
Operating with an increased budget, the district announced plans to hire 25 new teachers and up to 39 more special education assistants in an effort to reduce classroom sizes.
Understanding that there are a variety of factors that may contribute to a student’s performance, eight additional mental health counselors and two more social workers will be added during the coming year. Teachers are also being provided additional resources by way of an increased stipend for class supplies.
In terms of the calendar, there aren’t any significant changes. The first day of school for students is on Monday, Aug. 19. Spring break will be observed the week following Easter, April 13-17. Students may have an additional day off with April 10, which is Good Friday, scheduled as a teacher workday and inclement weather make-up day.
The district is required to schedule three inclement weather days each year. The other two are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 25 and Friday, March 13. If recent history is any indication, it’s likely those days will be needed for instructional days.
At College Park Elementary School, a small group of students will have the opportunity to try a new type of learning called multi-age learning. Multi-age learning focuses on performance-based learning tasks that allow students to learn and show their understanding of topics in a variety of ways through creative and open-ended approaches.
A pilot program was introduced last school year in which first and second grade students were placed in the same classroom and learned cooperatively throughout the year.
In response to the program’s success, it will be expanded to four classrooms and additional grades for the 2019-2020 school year. There will be two classes with first and second grade students and two classes with third and fourth grade students for a total of 94 participants in the program.
For this school year and the years ahead, there will be a continued focus on technology and how it can be used to enhance education.
In July, a new partnership was announced between Berkeley County School District and Home Telecom that will give internet to more than 300 homes with students who attend Cross Elementary and Cross High School. The service is being provided at no cost to families through a grant from Google and will be implemented prior to the start of the school year.
It was identified that only 52 percent of homes with school-aged children in the Cross community have internet service. Chromebooks are provided to students through the district’s one-to-one initiative, but without internet in their homes, the Chromebooks can’t serve their intended purpose.
For more information about the 1:1 initiative including Chromebooks, internet safety and student requirements for participation, parents and students are encouraged to review the technology section of the district’s website.
On the website, parents can also find up-to-date information regarding bus routes, bell schedules and lunch menus, as well as an electronic version of the student handbook.
One area that is especially important for parents to thoroughly review with their students is the bullying prevention and intervention section located under student services. This section includes helpful information about how to differentiate bullying from other types of peer conflicts; what constitutes cyberbullying; and resources for what to do if you or someone you know is being bullied.
Berkeley County School District offers a free, 24-hour anonymous tip line and encourages anyone who has observed or been a victim of bullying, threats or a crime at school to call 1-855-OK-SAY-IT (1-855-657-2948). If their child has a cell phone, parents are encouraged to add this number to their contacts.
To help get parents and students ready for the upcoming year, the district will host its annual OneBerkeley Goes Back to School Festival on Saturday, Aug. 10 from 9 a.m. until noon at Moncks Corner Regional Recreation Complex. The event provides the perfect opportunity for parents to connect with district employees. Students who attend will receive a free backpack stuffed with school supplies.
Charleston County students will return to school on Wednesday, Aug. 21 with the Head Start programs beginning the following Monday, Aug. 26.
There is the potential for a week-long fall break in November coinciding with the Thanksgiving holiday. However, Nov. 25-26 are scheduled as weather make-up days.
“Based on the weather events we’ve experienced in the last several years, we encourage parents and students not to utilize weather make-up days as travel days but to anticipate these days being instructional days,” says Andrew Pruitt, director of communications and technology.
This year, spring break will be observed the week preceding Easter from April 6-10. The following Monday, April 13 is scheduled as a weather make-up day.
Throughout the summer, the district made announcements regarding new leadership. The following schools will operate under the direction of new principals: Ladson Elementary, E.B. Ellington Elementary, West Ashley High, Deer Park Middle, Jane Edwards Elementary, West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet, Stono Park Elementary, North Charleston Center for Advanced Studies and Matilda F. Dustin Primary.
Interim principals will serve at Pepperhill Elementary, Lambs Elementary, Daniel Jenkins Academy and Ashley River Creative Arts Academy.
Additionally, this year marks the halfway point for the final phase of the district’s current Capital Programs plan.
The 19,350-square-foot expansion of Moultrie Middle School will be complete for the upcoming school year creating additional classroom space to three portions of the existing school.
Three elementary schools that were demolished and rebuilt on their existing sites will be ready to receive students on the first day of school — North Charleston’s Edmund A. Burns Elementary School and Matilda F. Dunston Elementary, as well as Stono Park Elementary in West Ashley.
In the area of technology, the district will continue working to complete its one-to-one electronic device initiative.
To prepare for the upcoming year, parents are encouraged to read the student code of conduct thoroughly, review the progressive discipline plan and go over both of them with their kids to know what’s expected of them when they are in school.
“Sometimes kids don’t realize they are doing something wrong, particularly at the elementary school level,” says Pruitt.
Additionally, policy revisions were made over the course of last school year pertaining to distance online and virtual education (Policy IJNDAA) and content/credit recovery (Policy IKADD). The student code of conduct and parent resource manual includes a “Policies At A Glance” section, but all CCSD policies can be found on the district website under the Board of Trustees heading.
Policy sections that are particularly important to review and understand include Section I: Instruction, Section J: Students and Section K: Community.
Safety and security will remain a top priority for the new school year. After a trial run at Wando High School last year, a clear bag policy will be implemented district-wide at all junior varsity and varsity football and basketball games.
The district has continued to work with local municipalities and law enforcement agencies to fulfill their goal of having at least one school resource officer in each of its schools.
Previously, City of Charleston Police Department had a designated quick response team of officers located throughout the city to deliver a timely response to any public or private elementary school. Soon, all City of Charleston elementary schools will have a full-time law enforcement officer.
Elementary schools in the City of North Charleston have had police officers in all elementary schools since 2012. Mount Pleasant began implementing the practice last year.
Each of the district’s middle and high schools already has a dedicated school resource officer.
At the high school level, students will see the full roll-out of a random search team, an initiative that was approved as part of last year’s budget.
“A dedicated team will enforce our zero-tolerance policy by conducting random contraband searches through the year at all of our high schools,” says Pruitt.
Much of the school year will be focused on continuing and expanding existing programs.
Looking ahead to the completion of the North Charleston Center for Advanced Studies slated for next year and West Ashley Center for Advanced Studies scheduled for the following year, parents should begin talking to their middle and early high school students about their career interests now.
Though each high school currently offers a variety of career and technology education (CTE) programs and coursework, these two centers will allow for a major expansion of offerings beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.
Programs that will be offered include media technology, PLTW biomedical sciences, health science technology, sports medicine, computer service and repair, networking fundamentals, cybersecurity, PLTW pre-engineering, building construction, mechatronics integrated technologies, automotive collision repair technology and global logistics and supply chain management.
“If your child is interested in one of these areas, keep these future opportunities in mind as you make decisions about their course schedule,” says Pruitt.
Although parents are encouraged to start preparing for the school year now, that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. The City of Charleston will host its Annual First Day Festival on Sunday, Aug. 18 from 1-4 p.m. at Liberty Square and Gadsdenboro Park.
Coinciding with the festival, the South Carolina Aquarium will offer free admission from 1-5 p.m. Other highlights include healthy food samples, kid zone activities and free school supplies. Parking will be available for $1 at the SC Aquarium and Charleston Gaillard Center garages.
Dorchester District 2
As parents and students in Dorchester District 2 gear up for the new school year, one of the first changes they may notice is the district’s new website. Here, they can find a multitude of resources including the 2019-2020 Back to School Guide, parent/student handbook and information regarding various instructional programs.
All registration forms are also now available on the website, allowing returning students to register online. High school students that registered online by July 31 were given the option of having their class schedule emailed to them.
For new students, anyone needing assistance with registration or high school students who need to pick up their schedule, the district has scheduled two facts and fees days on Aug. 6-7 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-7 p.m.
Elementary schools will host "meet the teacher" on Thursday, Aug. 15 from 4-6 p.m. for grades 1-5 and middle schools will host "meet the teacher" for sixth-grade students on Aug. 15 at 6 p.m.
Open house events will follow in September: elementary schools on Sept. 5 (6-7:30 p.m.), middle school grades 7-8 on Sept. 10 (6 p.m.) and high schools on Sept. 4 (6:30-8 p.m.).
Other important dates for your calendar include the first day school on Monday, Aug. 19.
Barring any inclement weather, there will be no school for students on Monday, Nov. 11 (Veteran’s Day), Friday, Feb. 14 and Friday, April 10 (Good Friday). Spring break will be observed the week following Easter, Apr. 13-17.
New this school year is the much-anticipated opening of the Career and Technology Education (CATE) Center located adjacent to Summerville High School at the former site of the district office. The facility will be home to advanced manufacturing and engineering programs, as well as the school’s broadcast media program.
The courses were all previously available to students, but now they will learn in a state-of-the-art environment equipped with all the necessary tools and resources. Corporate partners helped guide the design and curriculum that are being offered to ensure students are career-ready.
“We’re fortunate to have had such an outpouring of community support for this project,” says Pat Raynor, Dorchester District Two public information officer. “Thanks to sponsors and donations, our students will learn to use the same machinery and equipment that is being used by the area’s leading employers.”
Also new for this school year is the Summer Corner Performing Arts Center located on the campus of Rollings Middle School of the Arts. Students of Rollings Middle School of the Arts will perform in a free showcase as the facility’s first event on Sept. 26 at 1 p.m.
“It’s a great opportunity not only to see the space but for prospective students to see a sampling of the programs offered at Rollings,” says Raynor.
When not in use by the school, the 1,000-seat facility can be reserved for private events. It will also be the new home of the Summerville Community Orchestra.
The Dorchester District 2 Aquatic Center, developed in partnership with the City of North Charleston is projected for completion by the end of 2019. The 53,000-square-foot facility will be the region’s largest aquatics center. Not only will swim teams use it to practice and compete, but students and North Charleston residents will also have opportunities to learn to swim and about water safety.
The district office will still be located in the Knightsville Elementary School for the duration of this school year. Plans for district office renovation at the former Rollings Middle School of the Arts location have been submitted for review.
In a continued effort to improve transportation, all school buses will now have GPS. Parents will have access through an app to see if a bus is running late and receive notifications. More information is forthcoming.
Additionally, the district has been working with the South Carolina School Board Association to conduct a comprehensive and strategic review of all policies with the primary goal of eliminating duplication and updating dated policies.
Updates have already been made to the technology policy, as well as the bullying and harassment policy, which now includes hazing. All policies are available online and will continue to be updated as changes are made.
In June, the DD2 school board voted unanimously to raise the prices of school breakfast and lunch for the 2019-2020 school year. For lunches, the price will be raised 10 cents as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
The increased prices are $1.45 for breakfast at all schools, $2.35 for lunches at elementary schools and $2.45 at middle and high schools.
As far as advice for parents and students, Raynor says “rest, relax and enjoy the rest of summer. We look forward to welcoming you for a busy, but productive school year.”
Dorchester District 4
According to Dr. Morris Ravenell, Dorchester District 4 superintendent, it will be business as usual for the upcoming school year in Dorchester District 4.
There have been a few new leadership appointments. At the district level, Tracy Jackson will serve as the director of federal programs and Shelissa Bowman will assume the role of director of elementary curriculum and instruction.
Wiliams Memorial Elementary School will welcome a new principal, Ruth Mims, as will Harleyville-Ridgeville Middle School with the appointment of Catherine Yates as principal.
With a continued focus on improving technology, the district will add 16 Promethean Panels at Woodland High School. They will also add 700 Chromebooks as part of their one-to-one initiative. Additionally, network upgrades will take place throughout the district.
“Most of our focus in all areas will be on improving and expanding many of the existing programs and services that we have already instituted in recent years,” says Ravenell.
Through a grant and partnership with Trident Technical College, Woodland High School will offer ManuFirst SC, a training program originally developed for Volvo Car USA which focuses on real-world manufacturing experience.
They will also offer courses in mechatronics and advanced manufacturing through a partnership with the Dorchester County Career and Technology Center and a new HVAC apprenticeship program.
In addition to new programs, high school students will have additional resources at their disposal including Microburst, an online soft skills program, and Tallo which allows students to create a profile that showcases their talents. Formerly called STEM Priemer, Tallo helps match student profiles with opportunities such as scholarships, college admissions, internships, apprenticeships and jobs.
Students at Woodland High School will also have a new opportunity through Amazon’s Future Engineers Program to take an AP computer science course where they will learn some of the most in-demand computer science skills.
At the middle school level, a version of the teacher cadet program is being added this school year called Pro Team. With a nationwide spotlight on teacher recruitment and retention, Ravenell says the Pro Team Program aims to gain the interest of middle school students in the education profession before they become “turned off” to the possibility of a career in teaching.
As with the other districts, safety will remain a top priority and the district’s clear bag policy at all athletic events will continue to be enforced throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
In addition to the Thanksgiving holiday break, students will have a three-day weekend in November with a closure on Monday, Nov. 11 which coincides with Veteran’s Day. Spring break will begin on April 10 (Good Friday) and continue through the week following Easter. These closures are not subject to the possibility of inclement weather, as makeup days are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 18, Friday, Feb. 14 and Monday, March 23, which are currently planned teacher workdays.
Berkeley County School District, Dorchester District 2 and Dorchester District 4 districts start classes on Monday, Aug. 19. Charleston County students begin later that week on Wednesday, Aug. 21 with child development, Head Start and Early Head Start programs beginning on Monday, Aug. 26.
Get details about school registration, academic schedules, school menus, transportation and more at the district websites:
Berkeley County: bcsdschools.net
Charleston County: ccsdschools.com
Dorchester District 2: ddtwo.org
Dorchester District 4: dorchester4.k12.sc.us