By Gary Nelson

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The school day for some 345,000 Miami-Dade students began long before sunrise as 1,000 buses began their rounds. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was handing out bags of breakfast to drivers at the school bus compound.

“Good morning, thank you, thank you,“ one driver enthusiastically told Carvalho. Carvalho replied “let’s keep them safe.“

Safety and security were primary on the first day back to school. A Miami cop on a horse proved a high profile presence at Frederick Douglas Elementary School, reassuring to parents.

“I feel wonderful. The horse over there, the police right there. I think they’re going to have a great year,” one mother said.

“I love you. Welcome back,“ a uniformed security monitor said as she greeted children with big hugs.

Yovany Rodriguez was happy to bring his son to his first day of pre-K. He said he had two top priorities.

“Just making sure he’s safe is one of the biggest concerns, and making sure he learns and has good staffing in school to learn,” the father said.

Carvalho greeted students at Westland High in Hialeah. And the principal talked about a host of security measures new this year.

“We are a firm believer that if students are not safe, they are not learning. So this is definitely a top priority,“ said Principal Giovanna Blanco.

Some 20 cities have come together to ensure there is a sworn police officer in every school from bell to bell.

“When I parked my car at Hialeah Elementary I was greeted by two of Hialeah‘s finest,“ Carvalho said.

At Riverside Elementary Carvalho hugged Miami’s police chief for providing 30 officers to staff schools.

Students said they didn’t find the security and those in uniform a distraction.

“They have been a big help making the place feel more secure, more of a friendly environment,” said Dylan Nordhagan, a student at iPrep Academy.

And now the hard work begins.

“Let’s focus now on what’s happening inside the schools, inside the classrooms. Let us support our teachers and make sure our kids learn,” Carvalho said at the end of the school day.

With all of the security changes in place, now it’s time to hit the books, he said.

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