COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Innovated programs, new bell schedules, and expanded security are top of mind as more than 5,000 students head back to class this week in Colleton County.

Superintendent Dr. Vallerie Cave said she is focused on transforming the Colleton County School District as she begins her second year as the district’s leader.

“The board of trustees hired me to make sure that I transform the school district. What I’m doing is bringing many innovative practices to our school district, and with those innovative practices, I believe the programming changes instructional practices for children, and it improves academic performance for kids,” she said.

New programs are part of that transformation – and Dr. Cave said they’ve been able to bring significant programming for children that have never been available in the county before.

“We have Arts Now going on in some of our schools. Three of our schools are Arts Now schools. We’re expanding our career and technology operational activities for some of our schools by expanding nail and barbering, bringing sports medicine, expanding E-Sports opportunities for some of our children,” she explained. “We’re doing various things to make sure children have those opportunities. We’ve partnered with the Technical College of the Lowcountry, expanding opportunities for our children thereby trying to provide CDL opportunities for them, and HVAC opportunities. We’ve also partnered with the University of South Carolina to open our first Early College Academy for our children, which we started this summer. So, when I say innovative practices are happening in our school district, innovative practices are happening everywhere.”

The district made adjustments to its bell schedule this year as they face a shortage of bus drivers.

“We’re fourteen drivers down, that’s not unusual for a district as Colleton.  We are the fourth largest land mass in the state of South Carolina, so some of our children actually ride the bus for over twenty-five miles.  So, when our children have to get on the bus for that distance, sometimes when you’re fourteen drivers down, it’s very difficult to do those routes. Instead of having our children ride the bus for an extended period of time, and our drivers having to go back out and make those loops, we changed the bell schedule. That did not sit well with every member of the community, so the board asked me if I would make some changes and I did.  So, the elementary schedule will remain the same, the middle and high school schedules will be tweaked by fifteen minutes. We will not be able to get every child to school on time every single day, so we will lose some instructional time, but we’re going to do our very best to safely transport every child to school.”

And the district expanded security efforts. School Resource Officers in all of the district’s eleven schools. Colleton County School District also hired a new safety and security officer.

“We’ve added metal detectors in all of our buildings, changing the way our parents come in, getting ready to change our visitor badge entry system.  We have metal wands for all of our children, in case we want to scan them in, and we’ve changed to clear book bags.  We’re just changing the way we do things, so our children are safe and secure each and every day.”

CCSD made significant progress in filling teacher vacancies. “We had over a hundred resignations, that’s not unusual across America.  Right now, we’re down.  We have about twenty-four vacancies now.  Our HR department has done a Yeoman’s job in terms of getting those teachers in, and our principals really need to be commended,” said  Cave.

Dr. Cave’s message to the Colleton County community: “We have a long way to go in terms of academic improvement, but we are putting those models of instruction in so that we can get our children where they need to be.  Know that we’re going to take good care of them.  We’re going to nurture them, and we’re going to keep them safe. It is my goal for us to have progress forever.  We’re never going to go backward.”

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