CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Thousands of Clay County students headed back to school on Tuesday.
Here's everything parents need to know about the new school year.
According to Clay County School District Director of Transportation Derald Sweatt, 210 buses were out on routes to pick up students for the first day of school.
Over the last few weeks, bus drivers have been preparing for the first day of school. They were out practicing their routes with safety as a top priority.
“We make sure the kids are buckled in, everybody is seated and we do prechecks on the bus to make sure everything is safe, but the kids have to sit down and put on their seat belts. That’s a must before the bus leaves,” Sweatt said.
The district recommends students get to their bus stop five minutes before their scheduled time. The district also urge parents not to let kids run around and play at the bus stop.
The district said a major priority this year is making sure it improves communication with parents. There are several resources available to parents with any questions about their children’s transportation.
Parents can visit email@example.com for bus information.
There is also a mobile app, "Here Comes the Bus," that provides real-time updates for parents on the buses location and status.
Superintendent Addision Davis said he plans to maintain an "A" school district through two ways.
"One is to make sure students are actively engaged, so when they come to school, they'll really feel motivated to learn. The second way is to make sure every one of our teachers and support staff have the resources and tools they need in order to enhance their craft," Davis said.
At least eight new employees were hired out of a desire to address the emotional and mental health of students.
The district is also working on an online platform for students, parents and faculty to submit tips and concerns anonymous, a first-of-its-kind resource for the state of Florida.
In addition, the district is launching an anti-bullying hotline -- 904-336-6799 -- for students to voice their concerns. Davis said he wants students to sound the alarm if something is wrong.
He said the hotline will provide a helpful resource to individuals facing bullying or other crises, adding that it will help inform staff about problems that need addressing.
Educators and staff are also going through training to identify and step in to help students who might be at risk, whether it's a result of anxiety, depression, substance abuse or something else entirely.
“We’re doing all that we can to keep your kids safe. Your kids are our kids. We have kids in the school system as well and grandkids in the school system as well. The concerns that you have as a parent, we have the same concerns as parents and grandparents so we’ve put measures in place strategically to make sure our kids at least from a law enforcement perspective are kept as safe as possible,” Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels said.
Discovery Oaks Elementary
Roughly 800 students walked through the new doors of Discovery Oaks Elementary for the first time.
It’s a new school and the first Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) school in the county.
Inside the classrooms at Discovery Oaks Elementary, the curriculum for students in all grades will be project-based. It’s all part of the STEAM learning style. School officials said the goal is to encourage students to become problem solvers and critical thinkers.
Each classroom is equipped with modern technology that school officials said will enhance learning for students. The multimillion-dollar school building features dozens of high-tech classrooms, two science labs and a media center.