New Charleston County schools open despite pandemic

VIDEO: New Charleston County schools open for first time Tuesday

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Classes begin Tuesday for Students in the Charleston County School District and some of them will experience their first day of learning from new schools and facilities.

More than half of CCSD students will start off the school year from home, but the district is moving forward with opening several new schools.

Lucy Beckham High School is one of four new schools opening this year. The new state-of-the-art building will accommodate 1,500 students in grades 9-12. The three-story facility is on 44 acres and was constructed on the site of the former Wando High School at the intersection of Mathis Ferry Road and Whipple Road in Mount Pleasant.

The school will kick off its first year with multiple new opportunities for students including several Career and Technical Education programs like building construction and veterinary science. School leaders are also implementing a Coast Guard program, one of only a few in country through Homeland Security approval.

“Learning about military protocols and procedures, those kinds of things, but it has a coastal feel. So, really looking at port security, watercrafts, navigation, all of those kinds of good things. But at the core of it was always leadership and service. And I think that’s what our military does for us – they lead us and support us and serve us,” Principal Anna Dassing said.

Camp Road Middle School also opens its doors for the first time Tuesday. It was built on the old Fort Johnson Middle School site. Back in 2018, Fort Johnson Middle and James Island Middle were combined and those students will now be moving into this new facility.

The project cost $52 million and the new building is about 137,000 square feet. It will initially serve 900 students with expansion space for a future capacity of 1200 students.

The amenities include state-of-the art technology in all classrooms: sound systems in the gym and all performing arts rooms, nine science labs, a performing arts wing, a 9,500 square foot gym with a stage, and a 7,000 square foot cafeteria with outdoor dining for 60 students.

C.E. Williams Middle School, located next to West Ashley High School, is another new facility opening this year. Designed to serve 900 students, school leaders expect only about 150 on campus on the first day of school because of the pandemic.

With this being a new facility, Principal Kevin Smith says students are going to see the latest and greatest technology. He also says they’re expanding some of their programs, like Gateway to Technology, because they now have the designated space designed specifically for those kinds of programs.

And one of the things he’s most excited for is something you might not have guessed.

“We actually have air conditioned hallways. It’s only funny until you realize how important that is,” Smith says. “It was like watching someone open a wonderful gift when the teachers first came in and were able to see the building and they could kind of feel the space to think about the possibilities.”

Smith says it’s disappointing not all of the students will be able to see the new facility, but he says delay does not mean deny. He says all of the students will be able to use this new facility when it is safe to do so and he says he cannot wait until that day comes.

The Cooper River Center for Advanced Studies in North Charleston also opens Tuesday.

Students who attend can choose programs such as auto collision, health sciences like nursing, and courses in building construction and cyber security. They also have a broadcast news studio and media lab plus wet and dry makers spaces.

Principal Vanessa Brown said they collaborated with local businesses to gauge needed local workforce.

The schools were funded by a “Yes” vote of the Charleston Education Capital Improvements Sales and Use Tax Referendum of 2014.

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