Alachua County students return to school on August 10. Here's what parents should know

·3 min read

The sounds of loud footsteps and locker doors slamming will soon echo through the hallways of schools in Alachua County.

Wednesday, the district will usher in another school year.

To better prepare students, orientations across the district are scheduled for Monday where students and families can meet teachers.

The district also encourages families to attend the Family Empowerment Summit, which will take at Trinity United Methodist Church, located at 4000 NW 53rd Avenue. The event will kick off on Aug. 8 as well and will include discussions on mental health, school safety and school attendance.

Here is a guide to some information parents and students need to know for the first day:

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Teacher staffing 

School districts around the nation are seeing teacher shortages. Alachua County is no exception.

Figures from the district show that there are currently 46 classroom vacancies. That's down from the 64 the district reported last month.

A classroom set up for 27 students at Howard Bishop Middle School, in Gainesville, Fla., Aug. 4, 2021. Teachers and students in Alachua County will be wearing masks for at least the first two weeks of school this year to help combat the spread of Covid-19. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
A classroom set up for 27 students at Howard Bishop Middle School, in Gainesville, Fla., Aug. 4, 2021. Teachers and students in Alachua County will be wearing masks for at least the first two weeks of school this year to help combat the spread of Covid-19. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

This summer the district managed to hire a total of 359 classroom teachers.

Parents can also expect shortages within the Extended Day Enrichment Program. There are currently 70 vacancies in the program, which is why there is a hold on registration at most schools.

The district is actively seeking activity leaders for the program pay starts at $13 an hour.

Transportation 

It's also no secret that Alachua County Public Schools has a bus driver shortage.

District spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said schools are currently planning for delays. It's difficult to say whether delays will occur, but historically they have.

"First week of school may have delays because there is more traffic on the road," Johnson said. "We find a lot of parents during that first week will drive their kids to school in the morning and then they will stop after that first week so there's an adjustment period after that."

An Alachua County Public Schools bus driver turns a bus out of Eastside High School in Gainesville Fla. Aug. 24, 2021.
An Alachua County Public Schools bus driver turns a bus out of Eastside High School in Gainesville Fla. Aug. 24, 2021.

The district is advising that students arrive at their bus 10 to 15 minutes ahead of time before the bus arrives. If a bus is 20 minutes late, parents will be notified by email, phone message and text if they provided their contact info to the schools and signed up for the text option.

Parents can also stay up to date with late buses at www.sbac.edu/latebus.

There should be a total of 100 bus drivers on staff with the addition of 22 substitute drivers for the normal 110 bus routes.

School safety updates

The district recently implemented a new safety protocol where parents won't be able to walk their elementary students to classrooms as of Aug. 15. Schools will make exceptions based on certain circumstances.

Alachua County Fire Rescue also shared back-to-school tips with community members, reminding drivers to pay attention when in school zones and to follow the speed limit, which is normally 20 mph.

If a school bus is stopping for children, drivers should not pass and be mindful of children who are crossing the street around schools and playgrounds.

School security has been a hot topic since Alachua County Public Schools has had incidents where students have brought guns on campus. 

In an attempt to be on top of the issue, Alachua County Public Schools briefly implemented a clear-bag policy, which was quickly reneged on after receiving community input from parents.

For more information parents, visit the district website at www.sbac.edu/backtoschool.net.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct starting wage for Extended Day Enrichment Program. Bus information has also been clarified.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Alachua County back to school guide for students, parents