Wake County Schools

Few problems reported as students return to class

Posted August 29

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— Area school districts reported few problems Monday as traditional-calendar schools opened for the 2016-17 year across North Carolina.

Of the 760 school bus runs in Wake County, for example, officials said 749 of them made it to school within 10 minutes of the morning bell. The other 11 were late for various reasons, such as a mechanical problem with the bus.

The successful first morning for bus operations comes after the Wake County Public Schools System overhauled its bus routes this summer, consolidating runs and cutting the number of bus drivers.

Problems did crop up Monday afternoon at the new Garner High School, with bus traffic flowing into a stream of exiting student drivers. Bus drivers deferred to the students and waited until they left, which put the buses behind schedule and caused residual delays for some elementary and middle schools in the Garner and Cary areas. School district transportation managers hope to rework the flow and implement a new plan as early as Tuesday.

In Durham Public Schools, parents and students had to adjust to a new bell schedule.

Because of research showing middle and high school students do better in school if they get a later start, the district moved up the start times of elementary schools and moved the start times for middle and high schools back.

Some students in Cumberland County Schools had to start the year with substitute teachers. The district is among those still needing to fill teaching positions, and Superintendent Frank Till said they are also on the lookout for more substitute teachers.

"As of last count, we have about 50 vacancies, but we're working hard to have those classes covered," Till said. "Last year at this time, we had about 110 (vacancies), so we're better off this year than we were last year at this time."

Cumberland County school administrators also were reminding parents and students of the "thumbs-up" boarding procedure for school buses.

Now, after the bus stops and the stop-arm is extended, the driver will hold his or her palm up, letting children know to wait for all traffic to stop. When it is safe to cross the road, the driver gives the children a thumbs-up and points in the direction they should cross the street.

Meanwhile, Johnston County Schools Superintendent Ross Renfro racked up the mileage by visiting all 44 schools in the district on Monday.

In Wake County, the school district had to reduce custodial service and adjust school thermostats by 1 degree to save on energy costs in order to balance the annual budget.

"My son's in a high school that seemed a little warmer, but I thought that was just because school hadn't started yet," Marci Raines said. "They've changed the curriculum, so that'll be interesting to see how that plays out, too. I don't know, time will tell."

For most families, however, Monday was about getting back into the routine for another school year.

"It's always a little painful, but we got here early and walked in and got everything set up, so it was OK," parent Kirsten Lora said.


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