Beaufort News

9 new things you’ll see at Beaufort County schools this year

Watch McCracken Middle School students arrive for the first day of school in this time-lapse video

Parents drive through and drop off their children to H.E. McCracken Middle School as the 2017-2018 school year kicks off on Thursday.
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Parents drive through and drop off their children to H.E. McCracken Middle School as the 2017-2018 school year kicks off on Thursday.

Roughly 22,000 district students returned to school Thursday, two days earlier than what is normally allowed under state law.

The state’s General Assembly made an exception this year to accommodate the solar eclipse coming Aug. 21.

That wasn’t the only new element to this school year. Here are nine other noticeable differences you’ll find at Beaufort County’s public schools:

1. New faces

New principals are leading the helm at five district schools. Those include:

▪  Beaufort High School: Bonnie Almond

▪  Robert Smalls International Academy: Jennifer Morillo

▪  Whale Branch Middle School: Freddie Lawton

▪  Battery Creek High School: Chad Cox

▪  Mossy Oaks Elementary School: Michelle Sackman

2. Fewer passwords

In past years, students had to remember up to 10 different passwords to log onto various school software programs.

Students, especially younger ones, couldn’t remember all of them, and the process to retrieve forgotten passwords disrupted class time, said Mark Chauhan, the district’s technology services officer.

The district debuted “single sign-on,” Chauhan said, allowing students to remember just one password to log into different programs. The change will give teachers more seat time.

3. New expectations

South Carolina third-graders struggling the most to read on grade level could be held back a year to repeat the grade, according to a state law passed in 2014 that takes effect this school year.

The change could affect some of the roughly 1,700 district third-graders, though an estimate of the number of students in jeopardy won’t be available until after the first round of testing wraps in mid-fall.

Roughly 350 second-graders attended summer school to receive additional support, but some of those students aren’t in danger of being held back.

4. New devices

Incoming third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are getting laptops this year, Chauhan said.

These grades used iPad Airs last year that will be moved down to the lower grades. The change is being made primarily for state testing, which requires students to write essays, a task made easier with a keyboard.

High school students are also shifting from tablets to laptops. The Dell tablets previously used are being taken out of circulation as part of the district’s three-year replacement cycle. High schoolers will receive HP X360 laptops, Chauhan said.

5. GPS on school buses

Ever see a school bus speeding and chase it down to get the bus number for reporting purposes?

That’s no longer necessary because the district has invested about $138,000 in GPS technology, said Gregory McCord, the district’s chief auxiliary services officer.

The technology allows transportation staff to better track buses’ speeds and locations, so citizens who want to report a bus driver only need a street name and the time of day to report reckless driving.

6. Increased emergency preparedness at Broad River Elementary

Each Broad River Elementary School classroom will house a small trauma kit designed to stop critical bleeding in the event of a school shooting.

The Burton Fire District is piloting this new program at Broad River in the hope that the kits will bridge the gap between when a child suffers a life-threatening injury and when emergency responders arrive, according to a news release from the fire district.

Burton FD_Jacob Kit_0811017a
The “Jacob” kits are a small trauma kit designed to stop critical bleeding in the event of a school shooting. Burton Fire District

The Jacob kits are named after Jacob Hall, a 6-year-old South Carolina student who suffered a bullet wound to his leg during a shooting at Townville Elementary School in 2016. While Jacob survived the initial wound, he died three days later from blood loss.

Angela Byrne, a 26-year veteran teacher at Broad River Elementary asked her husband, who is a firefighter and paramedic, what she could have done if Jacob had been her student. School staff received training earlier this week.

Burton Fire District plans to implement the program in all of its schools. For information on making a donation, email

7. (Potential) school on Saturdays

For the first time since the 2013-14 school year, the Beaufort County Board of Education has designated Saturdays as weather makeup days.

The board also increased the number of makeup days from three to eight in the wake of scheduling issues following Hurricane Matthew.

8. Career and Tech expanding

Several schools are expanding their Career and Technology Education course selection and certifications.

▪  Bluffton High School: Adding biomedical science, expanding firefighting program

▪  Battery Creek High School: Upgrading aviation/aerospace curriculum to accommodate new aerospace industry standards, adding culinary and welding courses that lead to industry certification

▪  Hilton Head Island High School: Adding culinary courses that lead to industry certification

▪  May River High School: Adding automotive and welding courses that lead to industry certification

▪  Whale Branch Early College High School: Adding a computer science curriculum that focuses on coding and “cyber-literacy.”

9. College prep classes expanding at Bluffton High

The high school will be one of a select few in South Carolina offering the AP Capstone program this school year. Fifty-one students have enrolled and will take AP Seminar this year and AP Research in the 2018-19 school year, when they will conduct a yearlong research-based investigation. Topics can vary in subject matter.

Bluffton High is also offering dual enrollment with the University of South Carolina Beaufort for the first time. Two USCB professors will teach at the school each semester. This fall semester, 23 students are enrolled in Introduction to Sociology and another 23 are in Public Communications.

Kelly Meyerhofer: 843-706-8136, @KellyMeyerhofer