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Michaela Harleston, a sixth through eighth grade special education multi-categorical teacher sets up her classroom at Moultrie Middle School in Mount Pleasant on Wednesday, August 14, 2019. This will be Harleston's first year teaching. Lauren Petracca/Staff

The promise of a new school year is always exciting — for many students, it means new friends, new teachers and a new learning environment. But it also can be a stressful time for parents trying to keep track of all the changes happening at their child's school.

Depending on your district, there might be a central hotline or a variety of numbers to call for specific questions. Below is a guide to some of the key changes happening this year, broken down by district, to make your back-to-school preparations as easy as possible.

Charleston County School District
Classes start Wednesday

Random Searches:

The 2019-20 school year will be first full year of the district’s Random Search Program. 

This means students in a randomly selected classroom, entering a randomly selected door or riding on a randomly selected bus may be searched. The program will primarily be used in high schools, but some components may also be seen in middle schools.

Students can expect the searches to be similar to what they might experience preparing to board an airplane, entering a government building or attending an event at a performance venue. You can find a list of prohibited items and more information about the random searches online under the security and emergency management tab on district's website. 

There will also be some changes at the admission gates of district sporting events this year. All CCSD high school football and basketball games are implementing a “Clear Bag or No Bag Entrance Procedure” for the school year. This policy was piloted last year for Wando High School varsity football games at the District 2 Regional Stadium.

Every spectator is allowed to carry one clear tote bag that cannot exceed 12-by-6-by-12 inches. A small clutch or wallet can also be carried into the stadium by hand or within the clear bag if it does not exceed 4.5-by-6.5 inches.

New Buildings:

Three new elementary school buildings will open their doors to Charleston students on the first day of school — Edmund A. Burns, Matilda F. Dunston and Stono Park.

North Charleston’s Edumund A. Burns and West Ashley’s Stono Park school buildings were demolished, and new buildings were built on-site. This year, the schools are returning to their original campuses on Dorchester Road and Huntley Drive, respectively.

The new Dunston building will remain at its original location on Remount Road. This project proved to be one of the most challenging to complete, according to Reggie McNeil, CCSD executive director of Capital Programs, since a large percentage of the building was on an active school site last year. The final stage of construction is a permanent bus loop, which is scheduled to be completed in December.

The projects were funded by Charleston County education sales and use tax referendums passed in 2010 and 2014.

In addition to the three new school buildings, Moultrie Middle School has expanded to include nine general classrooms and three science labs.

General Information:

There are no major changes to school bell schedules this year. Schedules are accessible online under the district’s back-to-school guide.

Bus routes may vary from last year. You can also find bus schedules online at the back-to-school page under the transportation tab.

The district will also offer a back-to-school hotline this year. The hotline will be up and running Thursday through Aug. 22 at 843-937-6366. It will be operational every day except for Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The hotline can be used for general questions related to registration, transportation and bell schedules. 

Parents with more specific questions are also encouraged call their student's school directly. 

Berkeley County School District
Classes start Monday

Managing Growth:

The district opened the Berkeley Education Center, the new offices for the school system, this week. What was once the original Berkeley High School building in 1929 will now serve as the central area for all school officials. 

It will now house the superintendent and senior associate superintendent of Operations and Administration, as well as the Office of Administrative Services, the Office of Diversity, Human Resources, Finance, Communications and Community Engagement, and Safety and Security departments.

Finances for the project were in a 2012 bond referendum in the county.  

Despite being in one of the fastest-growing counties in South Carolina, the district did not open a new school for the 2019-20 school year. It did, however, shift some students from Cane Bay to Stratford High School to accommodate for growth. 

Their five-year Capital Projects plan details the need for a new middle school and two new elementary schools in the fourth-largest school district in the state. None of those locations have been determined yet. 

New This Year:

In an era where public safety in America’s schools becomes more dire, Berkeley County School District has invested more in its safety and security offices. This year, it will have a full-time training officer and investigator to help school resource officers in the field.  

Berkeley County has also increased enrollment in a personal finance course for students and created two welding programs at Timberland and Cross High Schools to better prepare young adults for life and jobs after graduation. 

General Information: 

Enrollment for school lunches and information for bus routes can be found at www.bcsdschools.net

Students are required to be at their bus stop at least 10 minutes prior to the posted stop time. 

A complete bell schedule for all BCSD classes can be found at www.bcsdschools.net/Page/24059

Parents can call 843-899-8600 for further questions or the district's public information officer at 843-899-8611.

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Butch Hills, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Moultrie Middle School, hangs a flag on the wall of his classroom on Wednesday, August 14, 2019. Hills said he uses flags around his classroom as entry points to talk about history with his students. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Dorchester District 2
Classes start Monday

New This Year: 

The newly opened Career and Technology Education Building at Summerville High School will host courses in advanced manufacturing, mechatronics, engineering, advanced placement physics, biomedical sciences, the arts, audio-video technology and communication. 

Later this fall, the Summers Corner Performing Arts Center will open on the campus of Rollings Middle School of the Arts. The center can seat more than 1,000 people and will serve DD2 schools, with additional availability for community events. 

New Rules:

The school board recently passed an amendment to the district's tobacco use policy to include all vaping paraphernalia. The policy now prohibits all tobacco products and alternative nicotine products, including vape liquids or liquid containers, on school property or at school-sponsored events. First-time offenses will result in a three-day out of school suspension. The district will send a letter to parents shortly after school starts detailing the new policy. 

General Information:

There are no changes to bell schedules this year. Bus schedules might have changed from last year, depending on your neighborhood. Up-to-date routes and schedules are available online under the district's transportation page.

This year, the district will offer a free app that will provide bus information in real time for parents. Parents can register for the app under the transportation page on the district's web page. 

Parents can call the main district line with general questions at 843-873-2901.

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Kenzie Robke, 8, helps her dad, a seventh grade history teacher at Moultrie Middle School, set up his classroom on Wednesday, August 14, 2019. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Dorchester District 4
Classes start Monday 

New This Year:

Woodland High School is introducing the Amazon Future Engineers Program this year. The school is also adding an Advanced Placement computer science course and an Advanced Placement course in world history. 

An advanced manufacturing/mechatronics class will also be added to the curriculum as a partnership with the Dorchester County Career and Technology Center and ECPI University. 

St. George Middle School is adding a class called ProTeam, a middle school version of the Teacher Cadet Program.

A new resource officer will be stationed at Williams Memorial Elementary School.

General Information:

Check the district's website for any updates to bus or bell schedules. For any questions, call the district's main office at 843-563-4535. 

Conner Mitchell contributed to this report.

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Jenna Schiferl is a Columbia native and a reporter at The Post and Courier. She has previously worked as an editor at Garnet & Black Magazine.

Thomas Novelly reports on crime, growth and development as well as military issues in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Previously, he was a reporter at the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.