CENTRAL FLORIDA - More than 140,000 students in three Central Florida counties headed to class Friday.
While some find it questionable to start school on a Friday, Seminole County school officials said school leaders want to start as early as possible, so the first half of the year can be done before winter break.
In Seminole County, 68,000 students go back to school Friday. Teacher said they spent a lot of time developing lesson plans for several new programs which include: IB (International Baccalaureate), arts and aviation programs.
Parents met with their children’s teachers, too.
“They all remembered us. We all remember them,” parent Tod Biltswitch said.
Like many students, Biltswitch said his elementary school boys were a bit nervous going back to school.
“We were a little nervous because we just got off summer, you know, big changes,” he said.
At Seminole High School, there's a new aviation program. The district purchased a Cessna to help launch careers as students learn to fix and fly planes.
There's a new ninth-grade center to help with overcrowding. Inside the center, there's the "Program Solving Incubator" or "PSI High."
Instead of a traditional classroom, students will work out of a high-tech office.
Lauren Powell, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, gave the district a $1 million grant for the “new way of learning.”
“We are very excited about that. Students going to school to solve real problems presented to them by the government, business and so forth,” Seminole County Superintendent Dr. Walt Griffen said.
Griffen talked about the new Millenium Middle School, too. Its focus is on programs, such as, music, art and dance.
In Brevard County, every student has the option to eat breakfast for free, thanks to the National School Breakfast Program.
Officials said the program helps with attendance, memory and standardized test scores. The district has been offering free breakfast for the last 17 years.
The school district said it is focusing on the students' mental health. it's one part of the school safety law passed after the Parkland school shooting, which includes heavier security measures on campus.
The district received $1.7 million from the state to support the mental health initiative for students.
That money helps fund several social workers, school physiologists and other assistants who will support guidance counselors.
The district also is emphasizing its “Speak Out Hotline,” which is a protected tool that students can use to report a concern or threat.
"We contracted several counseling services for the students outside of the school day. So, we've got lots of measures in place to support our kids and put those mechanisms there,” Brevard County School Superintendent Mark Mullins said.
Meanwhile, in Flagler County, deputies are making sure students who ride their bicycles to school are safe. They handed out 150 helmets to children before school began.
The Florida Department of Transportation funded the programs behind the donations.
An important reminder! pic.twitter.com/QtsVhcUIED— flaglerschools (@FlaglerSchools) August 10, 2018
Public school students in Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Lake, Polk, Sumter and Marion counties will return to the classroom Monday, Aug. 13.
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