By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – More than 350,000 students headed back to class on the first day of school in Miami-Dade.

Monday morning, more than a thousand school buses hit the road in the county.

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At Miami Northwestern Senior High, teachers, faculty, and school resource officers held up signs with encouraging messages while the marching band played. The students walked in on a red carpet!

Younger students at Kensington Park Elementary also had a warm welcome, as they received high-fives from Billy the Marlin.

Each year the school district wants to create even more learning opportunities.

Miami-Dade public schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says creating and enhancing programs improves student learning by giving them more chances for involvement.

He greeted bus drivers in the morning and made his rounds to welcome students and teachers all over the county. He explains there are 85 brand new programs:

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“Anything from musical to visual arts programs, to robotics, to engineering, and artificial intelligence,” he explains. We have collaboration with Metro Zoo, new Spanish programs, and new Pre-K programs. We have something for everyone in Miami-Dade,” he said.

This year the district has launched real-time GPS communication with parents from school buses. That means parents will be able to track exactly their child’s bus location.

Also, the district has hired 10 new mental health professionals this year. That’s on top of the 30 hired last year. It’s part of their brand new mental health department

For the last two years, the Miami-Dade district has been an A-rated school system. Carvalho said they want to do a “three-peat” this year while shooting for a 100 percent graduation rate.

With the start of the new school year, Miami-Dade police and fire rescue want to remind all drivers to be aware of school buses, as they pick up and drop off students, and that school speed zones are once again in effect.

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Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is be rolling out its School Zone Safety Initiative “Stop, Drop & Roll with a Twist” for drivers in speed zones. It means stop accelerating, drop your speed to 15 mph, and roll carefully through the school zone.

Karli Barnett