A new school year began July 25 in the Jasper County School District and parents shared various opinions about the early start date.
Victor Silverio walked to his vehicle after he dropped off his three children at the Ridgeland campus for their first day.
“It’s been a little bit different for me this morning with working with all three kids and going back earlier,” he said. “I feel like I can adjust to this OK and I am glad to have them back in school.”
Students and staff went back to the classroom in July after the school board approved a modified year-round calendar for the 2022-23 academic year in a 5-4 vote Feb. 14.
Officials have said the new calendar allows the district to shorten summer break while adding more frequent breaks during the rest of the year.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the district said it will keep implementing safety measures.
“While masks are not mandatory, students and staff are encouraged to wear a mask as they feel comfortable,” superintendent Rechel Anderson said. “In the event that a student tests positive and/or comes in contact with someone who has tested positive, we encourage parent(s) to practice safety and follow all SC DHEC and CDC Guidelines and Protocols to ensure the safety of all.”
As of July 25, the district said it had 13 openings and other staff members were filling in until more staff could be hired.
“In the middle of a national/state worker shortage (teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, maintenance/operations/custodial, food service, etc.), our Department of Human Resources along with our Principals have done a phenomenal job interviewing and securing educators and staff,” Anderson said in a newsletter.
Brittany Childs, who has three children in the district, said she felt more time was needed before the new year got underway because of a lack of bus drivers.
“It’s not right,” she said. “It’s too early. I am bringing my child to school because they don’t have the bus system right yet.”
The South Carolina Department of Education said July 28 the district had eight regular buses and two special needs buses operating.
“We have received one complaint so far and that was from a parent stating their child was not picked up,” a department spokesperson said.
The district reported in a newsletter that times for bus arrivals were still being worked on.
“We are working diligently to finalize approximate times buses will arrive to the bus stop,” Anderson said in an update posted on the district’s Facebook page. “We will plan to update approximate times on or before July 31, 2022, and post updated routes.”
Jennifer King, a grandparent of an eighth-grade student, said she was bringing her to school because there were not enough bus drivers to start the year.
“She went to the Hardeeville campus last year, so this is her first time here,” King said. “It’s a little bit too hectic here; I don’t like it.”
Shania Johnson agreed with King.
“I would like to see us go back to August with everybody else and everybody on the same page,” she said. “It seemed like it was chaos for everybody. It was really crazy and I really hope they get this together.”
Sauveur Alexandre said he thought things were going well considering it was the first day of school and agreed with the new schedule.
“I think it’s wonderful,” he said.
Lounaden, his daughter, is from Haiti and has been in Ridgeland a short time.
“I feel good about coming back to school today,” she said.
Denise Rooker, originally from Las Vegas, said schools there had been on a schedule like the one the district had adopted.
“This is my son’s first year of school,” she said. “It really doesn’t matter that school is starting earlier; I just want to see how it goes, see if it works.”
Other county schools
Royal Live Oaks Academy Charter School will start classes Aug 15. The school will require all students to wear a uniform. Masks are optional for students. Additional security protocols and measures will also be in place.
John Paul II Catholic School will begin classes Aug. 15 for new students and Aug. 16 for all classes. Uniforms are required for all students. Face coverings are optional.
Thomas Heyward Academy will go back to school for a half day Aug. 11, with the first full day Aug. 12. All grades are required to wear uniforms. Masks are optional.
Legacy Christian Academy will open its doors for the first day Aug. 15. Masks are optional.
The first day of school for Polaris Tech Charter School is Aug. 15 and uniforms are required. The first day of school for Step of Faith Christian Academy will also be Aug. 15.