Safety, mental health are priorities for Aiken County schools

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 7:02 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Our largest school district on the South Carolina side is back in the classroom this morning.

Earlier this summer Aiken County Schools announced Vicky Gaskins would serve as the first-ever Director of Security and Emergency Management.

Monday, the school district tells us student safety and mental health are at the top of their priorities.

It’s almost a strange site to see hundreds of students walking the hallways, like normal.

For the principal of Midland Valley High School, Sheldon Higgenbottom, it’s his first time really experiencing it.

“This is only my third year, so this is my first year having a regular year so to speak. We’re just glad we’re not contact tracing,” said Higgenbottom.

He and his staff worked all summer to prepare for the potential challenges of the school year.

“It’s a great day. It’s always one of the best days of the year. We’re ready to go. We’re really excited,” he said.

One of those challenges is school safety.

They’re keeping doors shut, windows locked, and making sure everyone is entering and exiting through one doorway.

“We’re just doing everything we can to put adults in places so they can watch out for our school,” said Higgenbottom.

They’re also watching out for their students. This year, there will be a trained mental health counselor available for students and staff in the school.

“We’re going to do everything we can for our kids,” he said.

It’s mental health awareness week for them. Their goal is to make sure every student feels comfortable being back.

“It’s a chance to build and dream about things that you want to achieve and that’s where we are now. we’re trying to do things here at this school that have never been done before,” said Higgenbottom.

Remember Aiken County switches to a modified calendar starting next year.

Summer break is shorter, but students and teachers get more breaks in each quarter.

Those are in October, December into January and April.

The new first day of school would be July 25.

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