Back-to-school: What Duval County parents need to know

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Buses in Duval County were out and about again Monday, getting students to their first day of school and back home again.

Dr. Diana Greene, the new Duval County Public Schools superintendent, said the focus this year is making sure the entire district is working together to ensure students are able to do their best academically. That includes plans to help improve turnaround schools.

There are 29 schools that are considered turnaround schools.

  • 5 middle schools 
  • 24 elementary schools 

The superintendent said there are several things she would like to see done to move the schools forward. She wants to add supplemental curriculum in the classroom, provide more professional development opportunities and hire more assistant principals to support new teachers.

RELATED: Duval elementary schools will have armed protection by 1st day

“We know that new teachers need a lot of support to be successful and more than 50 percent of the teachers in those schools have less than three years of experience, so those assistant principals' No. 1 job is to support new teachers, teachers with three years or less of experience,” Greene said.

School buses

Roughly 860 schools buses headed out across Duval County to pick up around 48,000 students for the first day of school. There are nearly 900 bus drivers who will travel more than 10 million miles over the entire school year.

Transportation is provided as long as you live more than a mile and a half from your child’s school. It’s also provided for magnet schools but not choice schools.

Three bus companies will carry Duval County students this year: Student Transportation of America, First Student and Durham Transportation. 

Duval is ranked No. 1 in the state of Florida for having the newest fleet of buses. The average age of a bus in Duval County is about 5.8 years, which is the youngest of the seven biggest school districts in Florida. 

In preparation for Monday's return to school, the call center in the district building was busy answering questions from parents about their children’s transportation. 

WATCH: Common questions parents have about transportation

According to the school district's transportation department, the center had received about 1,400 calls by mid-afternoon. A DCPS spokeswoman said most of the calls received Monday morning were about buses running late, which is expected during the first few days of school.

The district said kindergartners are the first priority because they are riding the bus for the first time. When kindergartners get on the bus, they will wear a badge on their backpacks or on a lanyard. That will help bus drivers know who the kindergartners are and make sure they get home safely.

MORE: Frequently asked questions on Duval County buses

“For our kindergarten students, it is a big leap for them going to school, so we want to make sure that, one we can readily identify who they are, and two we also have the parents' and guardians' input on how we should be treating them when they get to the bus stop,” said Don Nelson, assistant superintendent of operations for DCPS. “If he’ll be picked up or if they’ll just be walking home on their own. If a parent wants to drop a child off and they will meet their child. If the parent is not there, the child will not be left off the bus and will be returned back to the school.”

The call center hotline -- 904-381-RIDE -- will stay open for the first few weeks of school. Anyone with questions can call between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. through Aug. 24.

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