This time next year, a second high school will open its doors to students in Mount Pleasant. Lucy Beckham High School (LBHS) is slated to open with ninth and 10th grades for the 2020-21 school year.
Anna Dassing, principal of the new high school, is eager for students to walk through the doors next August and is working hard at “Building Beckham” to meet the community’s expectations. Dassing was named Beckham’s principal in March 2017 and calls the former Wando High School Principal Lucy Beckham, the school’s namesake, a friend and mentor.
Dassing moved to Charleston in 2002 and has held various educational roles within Charleston County School District (CCSD). Her first position in Charleston was a teacher specialist role at Military Magnet Academy through the State Department of Education. She then served as a learning specialist for CCSD and later served as assistant principal of R.B. Stall High School. Dassing is most well-known in the community for serving as the principal of Moultrie Middle School for five years. She was then appointed as executive director of College and Career Readiness in the summer of 2016. Shortly after she was called to serve as the acting principal of Burke High School for a majority of the 2016-17 school year.
“When I was named principal of Beckham I felt like I was coming home again. I live in Mount Pleasant but coming back to that Moultrie community knowing that now with zoning being done the majority of our students will come from Moultrie and about 30% of them will come from Laing. It felt like home again so it’s super exciting,” she said.
The new high school has already embraced its mascot, the Beckham Bengals.
During the 2020-21 school year, Lucy Beckham will open with just ninth and tenth grades, with a projection of nearly 750-800 students. The second year open they will add eleventh grade and the third year they will add 12th grade. Dassing said they are projecting adding the grades each year until they’ve reached a capacity of 1,500 students. It is predicted that as the number of students increases at Lucy Beckham High School, numbers will decrease at Wando. She explains this will be a transition year for future LBHS students, regardless of whether they currently attend Wando, Oceanside, Academic Magnet, School of the Arts or a private school.
“We have staff on board that is helping with transition for those students. Wando staff has been amazing. We want the students to go to Wando and become Wando Warriors for a year and then just transition over as Bengals the following year. We’ve got a very close relationship with Laing and Moultrie so we’re keeping close communication with them and making sure their students know they’ve been zoned to Beckham and our expectations,” Dassing said. “We’re planning to have some community meetings periodically throughout the fall and of course into the spring as we roll into our natural opening to share more information with everybody.”
Dassing and Wando High School’s principal, Dr. Sherry Eppelsheimer are working through the recruitment process together. Dassing said that she gets multiple resumes a day from across the region interested in coming to Beckham.
“We’re going to recruit and hire the best,” she said. “One of the most exciting things is that it’s the second high school, it’s another gem in Mount Pleasant’s crown so to speak. We don’t do things second rate around Mount Pleasant so having the opportunity to bring another really high quality high school is super exciting.”
Dassing said this is the first new comprehensive public high school (grades 9-12) the district has established since the 1970s when the original Wando High School opened.
“Our schools have gotten bigger, bigger and bigger so being able to bring the size down and to make it a little smaller of a learning community that really focuses on relationships with students and making sure that they have fantastic career pathways and opportunities for college, career or the military when they graduate is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us,” she said.
Dassing said that the decision to build a second high school in the East Cooper area wasn’t a rushed decision. At first, the community talked about having a separate, subset ninth grade academy, but CCSD’s school board vetted all reasons and approved a second high school to open in the community that was completely independent of Wando High School. She said since their school will only be 38% of what Wando is and that they want to complement each other and replicate the most successful and beneficial things for their students.
A question parents and students are asking LBHS staff is if they will still offer all of the academic levels that Wando offers, such as college prep courses, honors, advanced placement and dual credit.
“The answer to that is yes, we’ll have all of those ranges of levels; we just may not have the breadth of courses. For example we may not have AP Latin the first year, we’ll have to add those,” she said.
She said naturally people want to compare the new high school to Wando, but she reminds people that they will be different. She is hopeful that LBHS will offer the same and new elective and career and technology education courses to students. They will work with Wando’s Center for Advanced studies for putting up level courses. Dassing said they plan to have new courses such as building construction, homeland security, law enforcement, veterinary technician, and other career education courses. Dassing said they will have to differentiate, but plan to provide the same level of rigor and quality that people are used to from Wando.
The new high school sits on 44 acres and is slated to have 70 classrooms, two gymnasiums, a media center and makerspace, 1:1 technology and a performing arts center. The building will be three stories tall (30 feet), 240,000 square feet and had a $103.7 million budget. They anticipate the building to have staff occupancy by the spring of 2020 given no weather interference.
Dassing anticipates the doors to open well before school starts in time for students to take tours, complete orientation and for staff to prepare the new educational atmosphere. For more information on Lucy Beckham High School, visit ccsdschools.com and select Lucy Beckham High School from the “Our Schools” menu. (Credit: Moultrie News)