FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Summer break is officially over for students in Broward and Monroe counties.
Wednesday morning more than 270,000 students headed back to class in Broward alone.
More than 1,200 school buses rolled out on a thousand routes to take nearly 73,000 students to their schools.
Some students said they were excited to be back.
“To meet my teacher and meet my friends,” said Aubri Richards, a second-grader at Pasadena Elementary.
At Sawgrass Middle School, students shared hugs and reunions and some made the walk with proud parents.
“My son is entering 6th grade and I’m excited for him. I can’t wait until he comes home and tells me all about it,” said Tabatha Williams.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie started the day at the bus terminal in Pembroke Pines.
“I want to say welcome back to all of our students, our teachers, our families, we are looking forward to having an exciting school year. We continue to focus on making sure that schools provide a safe and secure learning environment. We’ve got a lot of great, innovative programs that we continue expanding in the district. A lot of opportunities in STEM, science, technology, engineering, math. We’re expanding a lot of our robotic programs to an additional 35 schools. So as you look throughout Broward County we have 149 schools where robotics programs exist there,” he said.
Runcie went on to say that the district is redesigning middle schools to make them more engaging.
“So that what students learn in the classroom, they are able to relate that to their lived experiences. We actually have drone computer coding in our middle schools this year,” he said.
Each year, school leaders want to give students even more opportunities for learning so there are several new programs or programs that are being expanded.
According to the district there are more than a dozen magnet and innovative programs launching at schools.
One of those is the integrated career and academic networks or ICAN. It provides students with a chance to participate in project-based learning, develop workplace and technology skills, and engage in mentoring.
There will also be more career, technical, adult and community education programs. This year there are around 40 different options being offered including cybersecurity, computer coding, and entrepreneurship.
For those interested in the fine arts, there’s the Broward Arts integration program.
Runcie said the district continues to invest in the arts.
“In fact, we have through our School Board, they have pushed to continue to invest in the arts. We have put in over 58,000 new musical instruments in our schools,” he said.
The Superintendent said safety and security is a top priority.
“We made sure as we opened our schools today, we have a safe school officer in every one of our schools. We have invested heavily in safety and security including over $53 million in additional security staff that will be added to the district this year. We’ve added additional video surveillance cameras. We put an additional $6 million to add another 2,500, bringing our total to over 12,000 cameras,” he said.
Runcie also pointed out that they’ve given the Broward Sheriff’s Office real-time access to all of the cameras.
In addition to the cameras, Runcie said other security measures are being put in place.
“We are completing our functionality for a single point of entry at every school now, as you go there. We limit access to the school during school hours and all our protocols remain in place. Our gates are going to be locked during the school day, classroom doors will be locked, all of our students have to have appropriate ID,” he said.
Runcie also had some advice for parents.
“Make this a year for communication where you are talking to your child every day. Ask them how their day at school went, ask them what they like and what they didn’t like. I would suggest that they periodically look at their social media, their cell phones, and as I always say, never miss a day to say ‘I love you’ to your child,” he said.
The Superintendent’s day will include lunch with students at Coral Springs Pre-K-8. He will also be joined by members of the Miami Marlins and Billy the Marlin to welcome students at several schools.
Broward is the sixth-largest school district in the nation and the second-largest in the state.