BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) — Berkeley County School District (BCSD) officials provided updates on progress made over the summer regarding teacher staffing, school security and bus driver vacancies.

BCSD students are headed back to school Monday, and the district expects to see between 37,000 and 38,000 students enrolled in their schools this year.

“We’re growing little leaders here. That’s what we do. So we’re very excited to watch it all happen in real time,” said Dr. Natasha Wright, BCSD’s interim chief of human resources.

Wright said the district has hired almost 400 new teachers this season.

Although there are enough teachers to staff all classrooms for the first day, the district is still looking to fill about 100 vacancies.

“We still need more. I can’t stress that enough. We are a growing district in a time of a teacher shortage,” she said. “We’re adding schools, we’re adding allocations. And as much as we hire, we still need more.”

BCSD is one of the fastest growing districts in South Carolina, and has seen growth in recent years as businesses expand in the area, Wright said.

We love it. It brings diversity to our area — different perspectives. And I think that adds to the educational experience of our students,” she said.

BCSD Superintendent Deon Jackson is entering his second year with the district, and Wright said he has been very receptive to addressing challenges with new strategies.

“I’m very excited about the leadership in our district. I’m very excited for what’s next,” she said.

As for school security, leaders said the district is focusing on “getting back to the basics” in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde.

“Making sure that we’re doing the simple things. Keeping our exterior doors secure. Locking our classroom doors. Keeping a vigilant eye on any suspicious people out in the school parking lots,” said Tim Knight, BCSD’s director of security and emergency management.

Knight encourages parents and students to report any suspicious behavior by calling BCSD’s anonymous tip line.

“Every tip that comes in, we jump on immediately and investigate,” he said.

This summer, the district focused on training administrators and “beefing up” physical security in BCSD schools. This included completing active shooter training, adding fencing and improving locks on doors, he said.

Wright asks parents to check their children’s book bags each day so they know exactly what students are bringing to school.

Tyra Ramsey began her role as BCSD’s director of transportation in February, and said her team has hired 45 new bus drivers in recent months.

Now, the district is down to five bus driver vacancies.

“We have really made a good faith effort to go out and do a lot of recruiting,” Ramsey said.

She said transportation leaders are focusing on safety, training and morale with this group of employees, which includes both seasoned and new bus drivers.

“We’re trying our best to boost morale. So we can retain what we have, and also recruit more in,” Ramsey said.

She asks students to get to their bus stop at least ten minutes before their bus is scheduled to arrive, and asks parents for their patience in the first few weeks.

For more information on BCSD, visit the district’s website here.