The story of Laing begins with a woman born in 1839 by the name of Cornelia Hancock. Raised in Quaker household in New Jersey, she had a desire from an early age to serve others. At 23, she was thought to be too young for the horrific job of nursing during the Civil War. She convinced her brother-in-law, a doctor, to take her with him. She joined him at a hospital at Gettysburg, and went on to serve the sick, wounded and dying wherever she was needed over the next few years.
In this service, she grew in compassion and her abolitionist cause. When the war ended, she traveled south. With the help of a few local benefactors, the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society, and the Friends Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen of Philadelphia, she set up a Freedman school to educate young colored children in the village of Mt.Pleasant, South Carolina. Their first school was a Presbyterian Church, riddled with bullets. Her first class numbered about 50 students.
Within a year, the Freedmen’s School had 200 students and had taken up residence in a brick mansion. The Philadelphia Friends’ Society sent three more teachers and funds to build a new school on property donated by the town of Mt.Pleasant. The new school was named for Henry M. Laing, who was the treasurer of the Friends’ Society.
In 1886, the original building was destroyed in the Charleston Earthquake. It was rebuilt and expanded over 40 years to become Laing Industrial School. There, students received a full 7 years of academic preparation – the standard for South Carolina at the time.
They also received vocational training in sewing, cooking, woodworking, and shoe making and repair. Several students went on to high school, while many chose to enter the workforce. In that time, a strong Parent Teacher Association worked tirelessly to improve the environment and opportunities for their children.
In the passing years, grade levels, curriculum and student population increased. In 1953, a new facility opened on Highway 17 North to serve grades 7 through 12. Laing Elementary and Jennie Moore were feeder schools for the new junior and senior high school, which contained additional classrooms, a cafeteria, a library and more vocational training space.
In 1965, Mt.Pleasant began integrating its schools by sending select Laing students to Moultrie High School. Full integration would take nine years and the construction of Wando High School. In the early 1970s, Laing served as the 8thgrade campus for Wando, and in 1974, Laing Middle and Moultrie Middle began full operation as 6th through 8th grade facilities and feeder schools for Wando.
Over the years, improvements have come in the form of facility expansion, technology enhancement, and curriculum changes. As Mt.Pleasant has grown, Laing’s population has changed to reflect the diversity of the community, swelling to over 1000 students before Cario was built and now comfortable at about 600. We love the small-school environment because it helps Laing to feel like a family, rather than an institution.
Through all these times, our mission has remained the same: to prepare students for high school by providing quality education and exciting opportunities to develop their individual talents.
In 2009, the staff at Laing began an exciting transition to become Laing Middle School of Science and Technology –a partial magnet school serving students within the regular school zone, as well as applicants from other schools in Districts 1 and 2. With the receipt of a grant from CCSD, two teachers were added to teach Pre-Engineering and Marine Science as full-time related arts classes, and other teachers began creating curriculums for exciting classes such as forensics, biomedicine, video production, and zoology.
In the fall of 2009, Laing also moved to a transitional facility located at Wando South on Mathis Ferry Road. This change provided for more classroom space for growing curriculum needs. Laing currently awaits the building of the new Laing Middle School of Science and Technology on Hamlin Road next to a new Jennie Moore Elementary School.
Laing continues to progress with its Science and Technology curriculum emphasis, and in 2012, the staff began working to become a fully integrated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) school. By focusing on problem-solving, creativity and innovation, the Laing STEM initiative will truly be creating a “new generation of learners” who are ready to take on the world, but are also grounded in the strong academic work ethics of the past.