Just before 9 a.m. Saturday morning, there was already a huge line of families weaving from one end of the Moncks Corner Regional Recreational Complex to the other.
That line just kept growing and growing – and for good reason: it was the line leading up to the tent where Berkeley County School District staff and volunteers were getting ready to start handing out pre-filled book bags stuffed with school supplies.
Amy Bradley has been to the OneBerkeley Back to School Festival before, so she knows how busy it gets. She got to the venue about two hours early to secure a spot at the front of the line.
With ongoing inflation, Bradley said this was a much-needed service being provided by the district.
“It means a lot – it shows how much the school district actually cares to make sure that the kids have what they need to get through at least the first week of school,” she said.
For the first time since prior to the pandemic, the OneBerkeley Back to School Festival came back this year to help make sure families are ready for the first day of school, which is Aug. 15. More than 6,000 people showed up for the event, and district staff and volunteers distributed more than 3,000 book bags to families – these bags were filled with items like composition notebooks, crayons, colored pencils, rules, notebook paper and more.
Bradley’s children attend Berkeley Middle and Foxbank Elementary. They were already eye-balling the different-colored book bags being handed out as they waited in line.
Bradley’s children are now good to go with their supplies.
“They’re just excited to see their teachers (and) their friends they haven’t seen over the summer,” she said.
After they grabbed their book bags, families could swing by one of the many tents on the campus where they could learn about the different programs offered in the school district. A few community members also had booths set up for families to visit. Families got to enjoy bubbles, games, books, jump castles and food trucks, and meet with some BCSD school administrators and staff.
BCSD Superintendent Deon Jackson said the festival has always been a great event for families to attend. He said he saw a lot of excitement and enthusiasm from parents and students as they showed up to the event.
Jackson said he is happy for a sense of normalcy after two years of schools working around the pandemic.
“Our principals are ready, our administrators are ready and, more importantly, our teachers are very enthusiastic and ready as well,” he said.
Jackson thanked the Town of Moncks Corner for its ongoing support of the festival.
“This is just a good display of all of our community partnerships that we have going on,” he said. “I have to acknowledge the Town of Moncks Corner and Mayor Michael Lockliear and their municipality for that partnership – that commitment – to Berkeley County School District.”
Jackson described the OneBerkeley Back to School Festival as being just that: something that brings the county together as one.
“We’re getting back to that essence of being a family – being one cohesive unit,” he said, adding that the district had a lot of volunteers who were eager to come help with the festival. “It’s just certainly a great thing for our students.”
Jackson was joined by BCSD Board Chair David Barrow in meeting with families. Barrow said the turnout was “tremendous.”
“It’s a kickoff for a great new year, a year that’s going to be positive – a year where we’re going to do great things in Berkeley County,” he said.
Barrow said he felt parents were very appreciative of the district’s efforts to help make the first day of school a good one for students.
“We’re not just doing this today – this is a commitment for this school district to do everything it can in terms of the growth of the school district, and also to make sure every family and every student that walks in our hallways has the resources necessary to be successful,” Barrow said.
Cassie Butler, whose son attends Moncks Corner Elementary, was among the many other parents who came out for a day of fun and grab some school supplies.
“It’s awesome because not every family can afford to go out and buy all the supplies and stuff,” she said. “So it’s nice of the district to give out the supplies.”
Butler said her son is excited about the new school year and getting “back to normal – hopefully.”
Goose Creek resident Kevin Horry and his wife waited in line with their seven children. Horry said not only did the event show support for the students, but for the teachers as well; he said his wife works as a substitute teacher, so the family has a soft spot for the profession and expressed appreciation for the district finding a way to give out supplies.
“It helps a lot,” he said.