MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Bells will sound Monday morning, ringing in the first day of the 2014-2015 school year.
A new year, another grade, fresh faces, and new teachers are all in store—and so are some changes in both Miami-Dade and Broward County Public Schools.
For starters, in Miami-Dade County, a pilot program will be implemented this year which will test student athletes on performance enhancing drugs.
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, at the beginning of August, laid out his plan for the new school year. He spoke about drug testing, touched on increasing graduation rates, and mentioned the importance of getting unaccompanied minors support.
On Thursday, Miami-Dade County held a dry run for buses—in preparation to transport roughly 60,000 kids Monday morning.
“Monday is the first day of school and we are slowly but methodically re-awakening a sleeping giant from its summer nap,” Carvalho said Thursday. “Safety first so it’s hard for me to pass up on an opportunity to catch up with bus drivers and bus aides.”
The districts 1,250 buses will be running bright and early on Monday, carrying out students using 1,100 routes.
This school year the school district has a new app that parents and students can download to provide fast access to bus route information to make the commute a smooth one.
“They are able to see the pickup and drop-off addresses as well as the drop off times, bus number and bus route information,” said Thais Prado with Miami-Dade Public Schools.
With the new technology, the district hopes the back-to-school commute goes smoothly but no matter Thursday’s dry run, the true test comes bright and early Monday morning.
In Broward County, students should anticipate a quite a few changes.
Some students, who use the bus, may notice a more quiet ride to school as the district will introduce 98 brand new propane-fueled buses.
The fleet of propane buses for the school district, which has over 260,000 students, is the largest such purchase in the nation’s history, according to the district.
Propane buses aren’t the only thing new.
Another addition for the 2014-2014 school year is that debate will now be offered in every high school and all middle schools .
Middle school athletics are back with the addition of of volleyball and flag football .
Scholastic chess is being added to second and third grade classes.
High school students will be able to take advanced computer science classes.
The district is also adding ‘three’ K-8 schools. That means some students will no longer attend a middle school but stay in their elementary school grades six through eight.
Superintendent Robert Runcie tells CBS 4 that he expects more schools to go toward the K-8 model in the coming years although some middle schools will remain.
The biggest change however is the end of the controversial FCAT testing system.
Beginning in the Spring of 2015 students will begin a new state devised testing system to prove they are making the grade.
“The FCAT was about facts. The new world is can you apply what you’ve learned to solve real world problems,” explains Runcie.
The Superintendent who is now making three full years with the District (his contract was extended to 2019) says one of his top priorities is to get the $800 million dollar bond issue passed in November that will be used to renovate older schools in disrepair and build real classrooms to replace portables in the overcrowded newer schools.
“We’re going to have a great school year. I welcome back all students, teachers, and support staff,” said Runcie.
Runcie plans to visit a half dozen schools on Monday and then hold a news conference Monday afternoon to give an overview of how the first day went.