Principal calls on community to answer the bell for its local high school

August in The Lowcountry has long been our transition month as a community. The days we spent in June and July enjoying the beaches and pools begin to creep backwards in our memories rather than forward in our anticipation for the next waterside adventure. We lament the heat and humidity, perhaps trading it for cooler temperatures a few hours away in the mountains! August brings us in education the sounds of school — busses driving, marching bands practicing, and coaches’ whistles blowing. But the most important sound in education this time of year produces is the return of the bells that operate our schools.

The school bells at West Ashley High School will call more than 1,700 students and 150 employees together on Aug. 20. From South Windemere to Shadowmoss, our students will return to grow as college and career ready graduates while learning to work together, innovate, collaborate, and compete in the most diverse school population in Charleston County.

West Ashley Wildcats will be challenged with more than two hundred different College Preparatory Courses including 15 Advanced Placement and 10 Dual College Credit Courses. Fourteen Career and Technical Programs, including Pre-Engineering, Health Science, Culinary Arts, Computer Science, Mechatronics, and Cyber Security will provide our students with career readiness opportunities.

Naval Junior ROTC will engage with more than 150 cadets in rigorous academic and leadership programs focused on developing collaborative, grounded leaders who possess the work ethic and integrity our next generation needs. Six Fine and Performing Arts Programs will develop and refine the gifts and talents of students in order to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education. Fourteen athletic programs and 29 clubs will cultivate skills such as teamwork, collaboration and competitive spirit as over two-thirds of our student body engages in their co-curricular interest areas.

As these curricular experiences supported by outstanding educators, technology, and innovative instructional practices maintain themselves as the heart of our work, another priority has established itself for our school and all others nationally. School Safety is a daily discussion in our community after the unfortunate events last Spring at Parkland High School and daily stories of crime and violence make us re-think how we as a school maintain a safe campus.

We have renovated WAHS this summer and installed a security vestibule at our front entrance that will now separate all visitors from our internal teaching areas. We are thankful for the daily presence of our school resource officers who are City of Charleston Police Department officers trained and sworn to their daily community duties on our campus.

Our administrative staff will continue to conduct daily safety searches of classrooms and students inclusive of metal detecting devices in order to keep the student population safe. Research is clear that the fundamental human need for safety must be present for learning to occur and it is our resolve to build productive relationships daily grounded in trust that will help parents, students, and school staff work together to maintain the safest learning environment possible.

Bells have long been used to summon people together, keep track of time, and signal transitions. For whom does the Wildcat Bell toll? When I turn the bells back on in 2018, it’s most important for our entire West Ashley community to hear them. For our children, they are an invitation to come join neighbors in the educational setting. For adults, they are a call for support and community involvement. Research clearly shows that an engaged community is a healthy one. It’s our hope in Wildcat Nation that from the Ashley to the Stono, the entire community young and old will hear the bells and engage in the education of all our young people!

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