MIAMI (CBSMiami) – School bells rang for the first time in months across South Florida as students headed back to class on the first day of the new school year.

In Miami-Dade, School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho started his day at the district’s bus depot with a message for parents and students.

“Number one, we are re-awakening the sleeping giant called Miami-Dade County public schools. I want parents to know a couple of things. Number one, take comfort in the fact that your kids are going to be greeted by the most fantastic, energized teachers in the world. The bus drivers that I just shared breakfast with are there to drive them safely. And we have a great school year ahead for you,” said Carvalho.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the district is opening 26 new magnet school programs. There are also new schools like North Dade Middle School and iPrep Academies.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said one student.

“It looks like a college,” said another.

Those are just a few of the comments made by students after getting their first glimpse of North Dade Middle School; a state of the art facility with a new international studies magnet program.

“These kids don’t have any excuses,” said parent Corey Jackson, “They have new everything they need, so let’s get to work.”

“I’m so happy that school started because now I can see a new chapter in my life,” said another student.

Across town at Barbara Goleman Senior High, a new program is expected to take the district by storm.  Students enrolled in the Advanced Placement Cambridge Capstone Program are not only challenged academically, they can also earn up to two years of college credit.

“Anyway to speed up that process is actually good for me,” said Stephanie Diaz, a sophomore at Barbara Goleman.

The program is in only five schools nationwide, four of them are in Miami-Dade.

“It’s very hands on, inquiry based,” said Maria Albano, a teacher at Barbara Goleman.  “They’re going to work a lot with the internet doing their research writing papers.  So a lot is going to be expected of them.”

Whether its in a regular school, education center or magnet program, Carvalho said he wants to help every student achieve their academic goal.

“I want to make sure they leave school college and career ready,” said Carvalho, “By the time they leave the 12th grade, they have all the skills they need to master the world economy that awaits them.”

The superintendent added in addition to being a big year for the students, it’s also a big year for the district.  A bond referendum on the November ballot, if approved, would provide $1.2 billion to renovate dilapidated schools.

“It’s a win-win-win situation,” said Carvalho. “Number one, it means safe, secure schools for kids. Two, technology access for every kid in Miami-Dade regardless of the zip code where they live. It’s a win for the community. Look, unemployment still lags in Miami-Dade. This will put 18,000 direct and indirect jobs right here in our community, particularly in industries which are lagging right now like the construction industry. So let’s do this for the kids, let’s do this for our community.”

Miami-Dade is the fourth largest school district in the nation with 345,000 students and 40,000 employees.

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