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What parents need to know as kids return to school in South Carolina

Students will be returning to school throughout the month of August. As summer draws to a close, here is some information on vacancies, safety and other issues.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It may be hard to believe that summer is drawing to a close. 

On Monday, Aug. 1, some students in South Carolina began returning to school in three Midlands districts and many more will head to class two weeks later.

The News19 team reached out to Midlands school districts for updates on a number of issues -- from teacher and bus driver shortages to safety updates in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas shooting

The same set of questions was sent to the Kershaw, Fairfield, Clarendon, Calhoun, Lee, Lexington One, Lexington Two, Lexington Three, Lexington Four, Lexington-Richland Five, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland One, Richland Two, Saluda, and Sumter school districts.

Their responses so far are below and will be updated as more districts respond.

RELATED: Midlands school districts face teacher shortages as school years begins

School district questions and answers

Are you currently experiencing teacher and/or bus driver vacancies? If so, can you provide us with numbers?

Fairfield County: We continue to diligently fill vacancies; however the following vacancies currently exist: teachers, 7.5 positions; bus drivers, 6

Kershaw County: We have 23 open bus driver positions. We have eight teacher vacancies. (as of 7/26/2022)

Lexington-Richland Five: As of July 11, the district had a 97% fill rate for teacher vacancies. We have hired additional teachers since July 11, so we anticipate a higher fill rate by the start of the year. 

The goal is to continue to increase this percentage by the start of school. Current projects indicate we may have a shortfall of 5 drivers/ bus-aids. We are working on closing those numbers.

Lexington Four: 3 Teacher Vacancies and 1 Bus Driver Vacancy

RELATED: For teachers, changing classes, grade levels comes at a cost

Are any of your after-school programs and/or staff being impacted by shortages?

Fairfield County: We anticipate being able to fully staff all of our after-school programs this year.

Kershaw County: We do not have staffing information for afterschool programs.

Lexington Four: No

Since the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has your district implemented any new security changes for this school year? If so, what are they?

Fairfield County: The district is currently evaluating a pilot implementation of the Open Gate Metal Detection Systems in all of our secondary facilities

Kershaw County: Our safety and security protocols are in accordance with national standards. We continually emphasize the importance of following these to ensure safety to all students and staff. All of our SROs are trained through the SLED Active Shooter course, as well as other required training.

Lexington Four: We will continue to use our standard response protocol (SRP) for emergency and safety situations. The SRP is reviewed annually by staff at each school. In each unique scenario our crisis protocol helps us identify a crisis, activate a response, restore/reunify and reflect utilizing crisis management teams at the district and school level. 

RELATED: South Carolina's tax-free holiday is this weekend

We review a Safe Schools Checklist that is provided by the South Carolina Department of Education to monitor and adjust our safety plans. Also, each school’s administration uses a school level behavioral threat assessment protocol for all crisis situations. 

This allows for each school-level administrator to identify risk levels for every crisis situation and respond accordingly. Most importantly, we continue to grow our partnerships with Lexington Fire/Rescue, Lexington County Sheriff's Department (LCSD), and the Gaston and Swansea Police Departments. 

These partnerships help provide inputs and assurances for our safety practices and plans. This week we are conducting walkthroughs in coordination with Lexington County Fire and Rescue, and we plan to schedule the same for LCSD in the coming days. This allows our emergency response partners to have familiarity with our schools and campuses across the Lexington Four District.

RELATED: SC looks to close education funding gap with new spending model

School-required vaccinations

What are some important immunizations/vaccinations students need prior to heading back to school?

South Carolina law requires a valid SC Certificate of Immunization or valid exemption for all children enrolled in school. Doses documented on the immunization certificate must be valid doses according to accepted practice standards.

Immunization changes for 2022-2023 school year

  • 8th grade has been added to the requirement for two doses of varicella (chickenpox vaccine)
  • 10th grade has been added to the requirement for three doses of oral and/or inactivated polio vaccine with at least one dose received on or after the fourth birthday
  • 2nd grade has been added to the requirement for two doses of hepatitis A vaccine with both doses received on or after the first birthday and separated by at least 6 months.

Fairfield County: We continue to encourage our parents to speak to their primary care physicians about the COVID-19 vaccine.

RELATED: DHEC removes major quarantine requirement ahead of school year

Local school district 2022-23 start dates

Monday, Aug. 1

  • Kershaw County School District
  • Fairfield County School District
  • Clarendon County School District

Monday, Aug. 15

  • Calhoun County School District
  • Lee County School District
  • Lexington District Two
  • Lexington District Three
  • Newberry County School District
  • Orangeburg County School District
  • Sumter School District
  • Saluda School District

Tuesday, Aug. 16

  • Lexington District One
  • Lexington District Four
  • Lexington-Richland District Five 
  • Richland District One

Wednesday, Aug. 17

  • Richland District Two

RELATED: Mom struggling to afford school supplies: 'It makes it feel like you can’t take care of your child'

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