PICKENS COUNTY — Alarm clocks were set, lunches packed and backpacks were loaded on Tuesday morning as students all across the Upstate headed back to school and, according to the School District of Pickens County, it was smooth sailing.
“I think this was about the smoothest transition I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been here,” John Eby, information specialist for SDPC, said during an interview. “And I would contribute that to a continuity in leadership. Of the 26 schools in the district, 25 of them have returning principals.”
The only newcomer to the party is Liberty High School’s new principal, Josh Oxendine, who took over for Lori Gwinn after she accepted a position in the district office as the new director of secondary education.
According to Eby, a total of 15,214 students showed up for classes on Tuesday, a number typical for the district.
“That number will go up once we start 4K,” said Eby. “Also, there’s always a few families who get the start date wrong. Truancy officers will be making the rounds and sorting things out.”
Students may have headed back to the buildings on Tuesday, but teachers and other staff have been preparing for the students to return for some time now.
“There were in-service days on the fifth and sixth of August, and again on the 11th through the 13th,” said Eby. “Basically off and on since early August teachers have been gearing up.
“It’s not like teachers spend three months at the beach,” Eby added. “Many of them have spent the summer preparing lesson plans, preparing their classrooms and such. There’s also been new technology and programs added that the teachers needed time to digest before implementation.”
Something new coming to the district this year is the distribution of electronic tablets to incoming freshmen.
“We’re pretty excited about this,” said Eby. “The ninth graders will each be loaned a Chromebook for the school year. Students will be required to pay a $30 deposit, because it’s an expensive piece of equipment and we need to instill some sense of responsibility (in the students) for it.”
The tablets will remain the property of the SDPC and must be returned at the end of the year.
“We’ll be rolling out that program after Labor Day,” said Eby. “It’s a big adjustment coming back to school and we just wanted to ‘let the dust settle’ so to speak before we distribute them (the tablets).”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.