FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — For Florence 1 students, there is only one more weekend until summer break is over.
Florence 1 Superintendent Richard O’Malley said he hopes parents will feel safe sending their kids to school thanks to multiple new security protocols.
He said the district’s zero-tolerance policy, which started last fall, reduced violent incidents in schools by around 60%.
One new security protocol includes weapon detectors. Some schools, though, do not have the equipment, including Dewey-Carter Elementary in Effingham.
Principal Wendy Frazier said other measures are being taken to improve student safety, like limiting visitors and access points to the school.
“This year, we only have two access points — for our car riders and bus riders,” Frazier said. “That’s definitely going to help. Also, when our students are in class, we have security doors that stay locked all the time.”
Frazier said there is not a single teacher vacancy at Dewey-Carter. Florence 1 reports that’s the case across the district. She credits competitive salaries and a constantly-growing list of benefits and incentives.
“I’ve been with the district for 29 years and it is a great district to work for,” she said. “They really value their teachers and all of their staff.”
Frazier said many bus drivers feel valued too. Last year, the district saw transportation delays, with some drivers having to take double routes.
“When you’ve got double routes, you have to take an entire route of children home then come back to the school, which is a pretty good wait time,” she said. “This year, we are told our schools’ routes are fully-staffed and good to go.”
She said one of the biggest changes this year will be dealing with children who grew up during the pandemic and lack the social skills of previous classes.
“They have not been in social environments, they have not been playing with other children,” Frazier said. “We really have to spend time teaching them that they have to share, walk in one at a time, those kinds of things.”
4K teacher Mitzi Mozen said she is up to the challenge.
“I think we do a really good job making sure they’re ready to go into the regular school situation,” Mozen said.
She said she has spent the last weeks putting the finishing touches on her classroom and getting ready for emotions to run high for the first day of school.
“We usually see a little bit of crying, from the parents more than the children,” she said. “But I think they will be very excited once it gets going.”
This also marks the first school year since consolidation with Florence County School District Four took effect.
O’Malley said Florence 1 will be able to offer direct busses to and from Timmonsville for the town’s students.