(WSPA) – Nearly 10,000 students were welcomed back for their first day of school Thursday in Oconee County.

“I’m excited to be here and I think most people that work here love being in Oconee County,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Thorsland said.

District leaders said they feel they have some of the best faculty in the business to lead students in the classroom and beyond.

“That is the special part, is that each teacher teaches something that may be completely different than the teacher next door to them, but they are industry experts,” said Carson LeCroy, director of the Hamilton Career and Technology Center. “Most of our staff have years and years, if not decades of experience in the field that they are teaching.”

Schools across the country are taking more precautions this school year in terms of safety, including in Oconee County.

In addition to adding gun safes with a patrol rifle into each school in the county, Thorsland said the school district has also implemented secure entrances at every school where visitors have to check in and go through two locked doors before entering the school.

“That is the most important thing that we deal with,” Thorsland said. “While our core mission is education and teaching students you can’t do that if you don’t have a safe environment. So that does have to be our first priority.”

Oconee County students can continue to learn beyond their normal general education classes.

The Hamilton Career and Technology Center offers 18 different courses for students to explore.

“It was great foresight by our district leaders to build the new Hamilton Career Center and the Oconee Campus of Tri-County [Technical College] right next door to each other in the middle of a growing business park,” LeCroy said. “It has really kind of paved the way for some easy partnerships with local businesses that we can connect students with.”

The school district’s graduation rate is in the mid-80th percentile. Thorsland thinks having something like the career center could help them boost that percentage.

“That is sort of one of the main purposes of this building and why we are here,” Thorsland said. “It is a great place to encourage our high school students to stick with it and get their diploma but also get a skill to be employable as soon as they leave high school.”

The School District of Oconee County said they are thrilled to welcome back their students, faculty, and staff for the new year.