FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – More than 260,000 children in Broward were up early for the first day of school Monday morning.
According to district officials, 4,000 breakfast and 116,000 lunch meals were served and 1,400 school buses transported more than 80,000 students.
Nearly a 100 of those buses were recently bought – they run on propane.
“They are highly efficient and helps us to save thousands of gallons of fuel, tens of thousands of gallons of fuel,” said schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. “They also cause less pollution.”
With the start of the new school year, students and parents should be aware of some changes.
The district has expanded its current personalized learning environment initiatives and added a new digital infusion program.
This year, before and after school child care will roll out extended learning opportunity program with specialized classes which will be offered for a fee. Classes range from ceramics to creating, and designing, 3D virtual games.
There’s also a new office of parent engagement which will help families and schools by providing access to resources that can help improve results in the classroom.
Another addition is that debate will now be offered in every high school and all middle schools. Also, middle school athletics are back with the addition 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 has also added ‘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. Runcie told CBS4 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 district plans to hold seven town hall style meetings, beginning in September, where parents and students can express their concerns with the school board members and Superintendent Robert Runcie.
“We are off to the start of a never great new year,” said Runcie as he toured a school bus depot in Pompano Beach Monday morning. “I’m really looking forward to looking forward to having our students and our teachers back. We just really hope to continue building the hopes and dreams of our students.”
While the kids were generally excited about the first day back, some of their parents said while it may be a new year, they still have old concerns.
“We need more computers in school so kids can be up to speed on technology, like they have the STEM program in some schools, they need to be in all schools,” said parent Deanna St. Julian.
An $800 million dollar bond issue could be the answer to those concerns. The school district will ask voters to approve it this November. The money would be used to renovate older schools in disrepair, build classrooms to replace portables and purchase a number of other items.
“We pay for our music and band equipment through capital dollars, for athletic equipment, all of our building renovations, our roofs, ADA compliance, everything on our buildings and also technology,” said Runcie.
Runcie plans to visit a number of schools on the first back to get a feel as for how the day is going and then issue his ‘report card’ on what he found.