NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Although last school year had an unusual ending with the pandemic closing the schools in March, one Horry County school was able to achieve a special recognition for its academic accomplishments.
The Blue Ribbon Award is the highest award a school can receive from the U.S. Department of Education.
Only a few hundred schools nationwide each year get blue ribbons, and for the first time, Ocean Drive Elementary School is one of them.
“You just keep growing," said Ocean Drive Elementary School Principal Renea Fowler. “It’s not getting stuck, you just continue to move forward.”
Fowler and her faculty wanted to make sure the school didn’t get stuck when the coronavirus forced it to shut down in March.
Fowler said next to safety, maintaining academic achievement was the top priority for her teachers.
“They have worked so hard to get to this point," said Fowler. "They are the ones that keep up with these kids. They are the ones that maintain constant contact with our parents.”
That hard work paid off when Ocean Drive Elementary School found out it had been selected as a National Blue Ribbon School.
The school qualified for Exemplary High Performing for being in the top 15% in the state in math and English standardized testing.
From there, the DOE assesses the school in several categories like test results, parent involvement and attendance.
Fowler said part of the school’s success comes from analyzing that same data for each student.
“If a student has an ability, maybe they’re not necessarily all on one test, or the test that qualifies them, if they have other data, three points or more, we push them in that direction to give them that opportunity," said Fowler. "It’s been very successful. We also departmentalize here, so teachers specialize.”
Ocean Drive Elementary is one of just six schools in the state and 367 in the nation to receive the designation this year.
The school spent part of the day celebrating, with a theme that’s very fitting for the teachers that made the Blue Ribbon designation a reality.
“We provided a luncheon for our teachers and covered for them to come," said Fowler. "We had a superheroes theme. We’re just relishing in the honor, and it’s just so big for us.”
Horry County Schools holds the national record for having three schools from one district win a Blue Ribbon in a single year, as well as having one school win three separate years.