GLOVERVILLE - At Gloverville Elementary School, visitor parking spaces are clearly marked and telephones are answered promptly.
At Cyril B. Busbee Elementary School, the walls and offices are adorned with colorful artwork and the grounds are free of trash and debris.
But the major component that sets the two elementary schools apart is their family-friendly environment.
Both schools received star treatment Thursday for practicing good customer service skills and were recognized as Red Carpet Schools by the state Department of Education.
Armed with balloons and bouquets of flowers, Aiken County School Superintendent Linda Eldridge rolled up to both campuses, where she announced to administrators that the schools were among just 54 in the state this year to get the honor.
"This is a thrill," Busbee Elementary Principal King Laurence said. "It's something that you can't fake. You have to live it every day, and Busbee does that."
Gloverville Elementary School Principal Chris Guerrieri credited the achievement to the three secretaries who work in the school's front office.
"These ladies have 45 years of experience combined," he said. "Between them, they know more about the school than anybody."
Any South Carolina public school may participate in the contest by filling out applications that detail its customer service and communication philosophies and practices.
The application was the most difficult part of the process, Mr. Guerrieri said.
"The easy part for us is the way our staff treats our kids and the public," he said.
Schools that pass the written application phase are screened by "secret shoppers" who make telephone calls to the schools and visit the campuses.
"We would love to know when they did it, but we'll never know," Mr. Guerrieri said.
The winning schools receive red carpets with the state seal for display in their lobbies. They maintain their Red Carpet status for three years.
Seven other Aiken County schools have been selected as Red Carpet Schools since the state rolled out the program four years ago.
They include North Augusta, Redcliffe, East Aiken, Aiken and North Aiken elementary schools and North Augusta and Jackson middle schools.
"My daughter goes to East Aiken Elementary, and they have a red carpet," Mr. Laurence said. "She said, 'Daddy, maybe your school can get one, too.'"
Reach Krista Zilizi at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.