Beaufort County schools are still looking to hire approximately two dozen teachers and several bus drivers as classes began Monday for the 2022-23 school year.
As of Aug. 8, at least 10 candidates were recommended to be hired, leaving 11 other classroom vacancies, according to Candace Bruder, a spokesperson for the school district. There are about 12 special education teaching positions open and an additional five ancillary-certified vacancies, a position for teachers in early learning centers.
The school board raised salaries by an additional $4,000, becoming one of the higher-paid districts in the state.
The 3% raise and additional employee bonuses were approved by the school board in March and was done in part to attract new and veteran teachers to the area, as well as retain teachers, Bruder said.
“It’s too soon to evaluate the full impact of the compensation increases on hiring and recruitment as the budget was not approved by the County Council until late in the hiring season,” she said. “However, we can qualitatively share that there was a handful of teachers who did rescind their resignation to come back and work in classrooms after the compensation increases were announced. We also had some retirees return as a result.”
The district is short eight bus drivers, a number that is not “atypical this time of year,” according to Bruder. In total, there are 117 drivers to get kids to and from school, which is enough to run routes, she said.
“As always, we ask for parents’ patience during the first couple of weeks of school as routes continue to be refined and adjusted as necessary, as they are every year,” Bruder said.
First day back
On Monday, kids at Mossy Oaks Elementary School were treated to the introduction of zSpace Machines, a virtual reality computer that uses the perception of depth for classroom engagement. At least 11 other schools, including Lady’s Island Middle, Beaufort Middle, Beaufort High and those in the Whale Branch cluster, will also be utilizing this technology on campus this year, and it’s possible that more will be added, according to Mary Stratos, a chief instructional services officer with the district.
The four third-graders at Mossy Oaks were hesitant to use the new technology at first, but soon echoed their teacher’s excitement once they started fiddling with the stylus that brought them to a realistically shaded park table complete with a chess board, a heart and a butterfly. Once the students picked the different emblems on the table, it transferred them to an activity — the life cycle of a butterfly and a display of how the human heart pumps blood throughout the body. The coolest part, according to student Matthew Knutch, was the pulse that could be felt through the stylus.
“I was most interested to see how it applied to math because all of those ideas, like multiplication, are still new to kids,” said third-grade teacher Amanda Dudas. “Kids who are struggling can have access to all those tools.”
By lunchtime at Port Royal Elementary School, the cafeteria was abuzz with chatter among third-graders about summer vacation. The Nutrition Group K-12, a food service management company, will be taking over the district’s food service contract from Sodexo. As required every five years by the S.C. Department of Education, the district put its contract out to bid. The new contract with the Nutrition Group was approved by the board in May.
The menu for cafeteria lunches is now available online on the Nutrislice app where students and parents can look at photos of daily menu offerings, allergen information and ingredients. If a parent wants to exclude gluten or peanuts from a student’s diet depending on allergies, they can take out items with those ingredients on the app, and only food without them will appear as available selections for their child, said Nutrition Group K-12 Vice President Joe Geisweidt.
Ariel Rodriguez and Melanie Taylor, two Port Royal Elementary School third-graders, said everything for lunch was delicious. Melanie was most excited to have a peach, her favorite, as her fruit option while Ariel opted for grapes.
“I’m not a picky eater,” Ariel said.