Aiken County is the only county in the United States named “Aiken.” Formed in 1871 by combining portions of Edgefield, Lexington, Orangeburg and Barnwell counties, Aiken County was named for William Aiken, the first president of the South Carolina Railroad and Canal Company, though Mr. Aiken reportedly never visited the County.
The 2000 Census counted 142,552 persons living in the County, an increase of about 22,000 from 1990. Aiken is the fourth largest South Carolina county by land area, and its size of 1,073 square miles is 28 square miles larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Aiken County is located midway between the mountains and the coast and is bordered by the Savannah River on the west, Edgefield and Saluda Counties on the north, Barnwell and Orangeburg Counties on the southeast and by Lexington County on the east. Aiken County covers 704,000 acres, of which 73,000 acres are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. The city of Aiken is the county seat.
Aiken is a major racehorse training area and is famous for its Triple Crown, which consists of the Aiken Trials, the Steeplechase, and the High Goal Polo Game.
Aiken County enjoys a mild climate with an average winter temperature of 48 degrees F. and an average summer temperature of 79 degrees F. The average daily maximum temperature is 90 degrees F. Annual precipitation averages 48 inches with the majority falling between April and September. Average seasonal snowfall is two inches and average relative humidity is 50 percent.
Several industrial parks, owned by Aiken County, the City of Aiken, or the City of North Augusta, are available for new and expanding companies. The Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership coordinates industrial recruitment efforts in Aiken County.
Education in Aiken County is provided by the Aiken County School District and private schools. Post-secondary educational opportunities include the University of South Carolina at Aiken and Aiken Technical College.
Ground transportation is dominant in Aiken County. Aiken County’s Best Friend Express provides local bus travel in and between Aiken and North Augusta, with connections to the Augusta Public Transit bus system. Greyhound Bus Lines provides out-of-County bus travel from its station in Aiken. Interstate 20 travels across Aiken County to connect with Columbia and points east, and Augusta and points west.
The extension of I-520 to US 1 in North Augusta was completed in 2004, with work now underway to continue the Palmetto Parkway I-520 extension to I-20 near Exit 5. Other major highways include US 1, SC 19, US 25, US 78, and US 278.
Scheduled air service is available through the Augusta Regional Airport (AGS) and the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). Chartered and other airport services are available at the City of Aiken Municipal Airport.
Excerpted from the official website of Aiken County
Aiken County Schools
The Consolidated School District of Aiken County operates 41 schools spread over 1,178 square miles. Schools in the county include seven high schools, 10 middle schools, 20 elementary schools, three charter schools and a career center.
With a total of 25,905 students, Aiken is South Carolina’s fifth largest school district by population. The county’s 198 school buses transport 15,300 students per day. They cover an area as large as the entire state of Rhode Island and travel 16,658 miles every day or 2.99 million miles per year. Aiken High is the largest school with 1,686 students and New Ellenton Middle is the smallest with 213. The school district has 3,271 employees, including 1,868 teachers, 54 percent of whom have degrees at the Masters level or higher.
Several schools in Aiken County are recognized statewide and nationally for implementing model programs in the arts, middle school education, physical education, science education, athletics, community service initiatives, etc. These honors are attributed to the hard work of accomplished school administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Recognitions include: The Verner Award, Palmetto’s Finest, Blue Ribbon Candidate, National School of Excellence, Principal of the Year, Milken Family Foundation National Educators’ Award, State Teacher of the Year, Service Learning, State Agriculture Awards, Vocational Education Awards, State Band Competitions, and others.
Aiken County teachers amass more than half a million dollars annually through writing educational grants, including grants provided by the Public Education Partners (PEP). Considering all competitive grants, the school district accumulates more than $1.2 million annually.
School facilities are among the best in the state and nation. The vast majority of the schools have been recently renovated or expanded. Many are relatively new (not more that 10-15 years old on an average).
Aiken County continued its path of excellence during the 2008-2009 school year with numerous awards and accolades. Significant gains were made this year in student achievement, community service, career initiatives, athletics, and student-teacher attendance.
Ten schools were named Palmetto Gold and Silver Award recipients for attaining high levels of absolute performance and high rates of improvement. Two high schools received the Bronze Award recognition by the “US News and World Report” magazine as two of the best high schools in America. Three schools were recognized as South Carolina Red Carpet Schools, bringing the county total to 20 honorees.
District FFA programs and Aiken County Career and Technology Center students received numerous first place state awards for career and vocational achievements. Volunteerism and community projects reached new heights with two Key Clubs being recognized as International Clubs of the Year. Several high school NJROTC units won state and national acclaim in drill, rifle, and academic team competitions. One middle school won first place in the engineering and mathematical elite South Carolina Future City competition.
Graduates set a district record by receiving approximately $33 million in scholarships for post-secondary education, and 12 graduates earned 12 years perfect attendance.
Aiken County’s classrooms are technologically rich with an average of one computer for every five students. Schools have internet capability, as well.
The Aiken school system serves 93 percent of all school-age children in Aiken County. This compares impressively to other large school districts in the state with similar demographics. All Aiken County schools, except charter schools, are fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
For more information, visit the Aiken County Public Schools website.