Maja Chiapetta, a Spanish teacher at Buist Academy, gets her classroom ready for the upcoming school year | Credit: Ruta Smith

Parents and students across the Charleston area are juggling checklists, picking out spiral notebooks and dusting off backpacks as the 2023-2024 academic year is getting underway.

Students and parents may feel overwhelmed as they tackle back-to-school preparation, but Charleston K-12 schools and colleges gave the Charleston City Paper some advice for returning to classes feeling prepared.

“Back-to-school shopping can be an enormous task if you can start early,” said Dr. Shavonna Coakley, executive director of the department of school support for the Charleston County School District (CCSD).

“It’s a great idea to compare prices online and take advantage of coupons and cash-back apps,” she said. “You can also find supplies at the dollar store and great clothes at thrift stores. Additionally, there are a ton of giveaways for back-to-school supplies.”

Coakley recommended checking school social media pages to stay informed of back-to-school events hosted throughout the Charleston area.

The City Paper compiled tips from local academic professionals for parents and students to ensure they have a smooth start to this coming academic year. And check out the rundown of what’s new in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester county schools.

College students: Start out organized, get connected

College students heading back to class should make note of the most important academic dates once they know their class schedule, said Stephanie Auwaerter, CofC’s director of orientation.

“After the first week, sit down and put your assignments for the semester in your planning system,” Auwaerter said. “You can then see when you can take a break for a beach trip or concert at one of the great venues in town and what weekends you need to spend at the library.”

One must-have thing every college student needs, she said, is a sense of adventure.

“Take a chance and go to an event you haven’t gone to before; try new foods and talk to people in the elevator and while you are waiting for class,” Auwaerter said. “Your bestie or new boo may be just one hello away.”

Time management is a useful skill for staying organized and prepared for class, said Dr. Laurie Boeding, vice president for academic affairs at Trident Technical College.

“Students should schedule time for studying and completing assignments each day,” she said. “For every hour of class time, students should plan to spend three hours outside of class studying and completing class work. Limiting distractions can help students use their study time more efficiently. A quiet, dedicated study space is recommended.”

Other tips for college students include “less is more,” Auwaerter said. “Talk to your roommates and suitemates about what you are bringing so you don’t have four Keurigs.” More good tips: Bring a small tool kit, a flashlight and mementos or pictures that “make you happy.”

“Don’t bring your whole room from home,” she added. “At CofC, the office of sustainability has pop-up stores that have free items for students that were donated during move out last year.

K-12 students: Develop good habits

An excellent way for parents of K-12 school students to stay organized during the academic year is to come up with and stick to a routine, Coakley said.

“Routines make things a habit,” she said.

“Once it’s a habit, you no longer have to work to remember. Morning routines are excellent because they help everyone get out the door to school, work and other engagements on time.”
For additional resources, check out CCSD’s parent resource guide.

Must-have items for students traditionally stay the same year after year, Coakley said. Examples: Pens, notebooks and lunchboxes. But she advised to not overlook the essential must-have item for parents — contact information for teachers.

“It’s important for parents to be able to connect with their student’s teachers regarding grades, attendance and other topics regarding their student’s education and well-being,” she said.

What’s new this year for K-12 school districts, colleges

College of Charleston: The Weeks of Welcome activities during August and September offer opportunities for students to get acclimated to campus culture. McAlister residence hall will be open again after renovations last year. A new texting service will become available for students to ask questions.

The Citadel: The new academic building Capers Hall opens for fall 2023 classes and will house the school of humanities and social sciences, including a cyber lab, art gallery and auditorium, among other features.

Trident Technical College: A new surgical technology program starts this fall for students specializing in preparing operating rooms and assisting doctors and nurses with surgery. Classes will be held at the Mount Pleasant Campus and a hands-on lab will be held at the National Educational and Research Center (NEAR). Bonus: Trident Technical College offers free tuition through spring 2024. Visit to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Dorchester School District 2: This year,a new online learning management system called Schoology will be launched to help parents and students easily organize and schedule everything school-related. Parents have access to their child’s classes, upcoming assignments, school and class announcements. The district’s Raptor school safety software is in place to screen every individual who enters campus, and the STOPit anonymous reporting system makes it simple to report safety and misconduct concerns.

Charleston County School District: The district welcomes new superintendent, Dr. Eric Gaillien. Also new this year is the Department of School Support, which launched its Showing Up Together: Show Up to Glow Up attendance awareness campaign, providing education and resources to parents and students on why education matters.

Berkeley County School District: The district is also implementing Schoology online learning management system to help parents and students organize and schedule with ease. This year sees the unveiling of the K-8 Carolyn Lewis School with a state-of-the-art facility designed to cultivate an inspiring learning environment. Parents will access to a new app and an updated district website that make information accessible and streamline communication. Features include event notifications and access to cafeteria menus.

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