0

DCSS: School year off to smooth start

Students get ready Monday for a brand new school year in Miss Waldon’s third-grade class at Jackson Heights Elementary. See more pictures from the day on Page 5A.

Students get ready Monday for a brand new school year in Miss Waldon’s third-grade class at Jackson Heights Elementary. See more pictures from the day on Page 5A.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Early Monday morning, hundreds of bright yellow school buses fanned out throughout the county as the Dougherty County School System welcomed students back.

The 2013-14 school year had officially begun.

Dougherty County Public Information Director R.D. Harter said the start of school went off more smoothly than it has in the past.

"I asked the principals to report startup conditions and all is very positive," Harter said.

photo

Mary Braswell

Jackson Heights Elementary Principal Brian Simon helps kids find their classrooms Monday.

At Westover High School, Principal William Chunn said "it was the best start in (his) 23 years" with the school system.

photo

Fourth-grade teacher Mr. Williams

System officials stress that problems that may pop up this week may not be known for several days as reports from the district's schools trickle in.

The system went through rezoning several months ago after the Dougherty County School Board decided to close Sylvester Road Elementary and Dougherty Middle school, and to convert Magnolia Elementary into the county's new educational center.

photo

Mary Braswell

Students get to work bright and early Monday morning on their first day of school at Jackson Heights Elementary.

"A lot of work was done over the summer to communicate with parents about new schools, new zones and new bus routes and that work seems to have paid off," Harter said. "A large percentage of parents registered over the last two weeks.

"Many of them attended open house in their student's school last Thursday. I've had reports of more than 90 percent attendance in some school open house events.

"It would follow that preparation leads to better practice and today is a best practice model for starting school."

Bus routes have always caused early problems and this year should be no exception -- especially when rezoning is thrown into the mix.

"Normally it takes a couple of days to get the timing on bus schedules where they are supposed to be," Harter said. "Drivers may wait a little longer at a stop when they had students picked up there last year. Timing will improve within a few days."

District administrators expect to welcome more than 15,500 students back to school, but said the official number will not be know until the system submits its FTE (full-time equivalency) numbers to the state in October.