BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – More than 37,000 Berkeley County students will head back to class on Monday.

Berkeley County School District Superintendent Deon Jackson is preparing to begin his second school year as the district’s leader.

“What we’ve been focusing on this year, as we prepare for the arrival of our students, and the arrival of our teachers, is kind of getting back to the basics,” he said. “Our operations previously have geared toward the public health aspect, and so gearing back more so toward curriculum and instruction, and also the safety aspect. We focused a lot on environmental safety, we’re talking about physical safety and security at this particular point.”

Some of the top priorities facing the district in 2022 are closing the achievement gap made wider by the coronavirus pandemic, building new schools to accommodate growth, and safety.

Jackson said the district’s safety and emergency management team is one of the best around. “We’re adding additional SROs, partnering with our local law enforcement agencies to add additional SROs,” he said. “We’re also adding some additional physical safety features as well; access control, secondary entry points, additional fences to help secure perimeters of our buildings.”

Jackson went on to say, “We’re proud of our protocols we have in place. We’re proud of the tools, and other security measures we have in place, but really it’s making sure that our students and staff are aware of protocols, and we adhere to those safety protocols.”

As the district continues to grow, Jackson said they’ve made changes to attendance lines due to that growth. “At times we have to make adjustments to those attendance lines. We have to put enrollment where we have capacity,” he explained. “Most recently in the Moncks Corner area, some of the students zoned for Berkeley Middle, Berkeley High, and elementary schools in that area will now attend schools in the Timberland and Macedonia areas where we have capacity.”

BCSD will open a new school next year, but the need for new facilities continues, and they’re hoping a penny sales tax that will be on the ballot this fall will help with that.

“To see 38,000 students this year, we wouldn’t be surprised. The penny sales tax is kind of an even distribution of the responsibility. We would even get some help from some of the folks that come through Berkeley County, or they come over the border, and they spend some of their funds in Berkeley County, so we get some help from them as well to help build schools for Berkeley County School District.”

The district’s employees will also see a salary increase this year.

“Our board authorized a 4-percent increase for all employees, and that includes teachers. In addition to that, we were also able to offer an incentive to our teachers using our federal funding. The board authorized a one-thousand-dollar retention incentive for our teachers as well.”

Jackson’s message to students before the first day: “Hopefully, you got some rest over the summer, because we’re ready.  We’re ready for you to come back. We have all the support and resources in place in order for you to be successful, and we’re going to be successful and we’re going to make a positive difference.”

The first day of school for Berkeley County students is Monday, August 15th. The district has about 2,600 teachers, and at last check, had more than 100 teacher vacancies.

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