ATLANTA — Tuesday kicks off the busiest back-to-school week of the semester with 16 districts heading back to the classroom.
Thousands of students are ready for the first day in the following districts: Atlanta Public Schools, Barrow, Bartow, Banks, Cherokee, Cobb, City of Decatur, Griffin-Spalding, Lumpkin, Morgan, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Rockdale and Upson.
Join Fred Blankenship, Lori Wilson, Brian Monahan, Mike Shields and our reporters spread out across the metro prepare you for the first day. Watch Channel 2 Action News This Morning from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Here’s a look at what’s new for the school districts and what parents need to know.
Atlanta Public Schools
APS is opening a new school this fall to serve kindergarten through 5th grade students from midtown neighborhoods.
Virginia-Highland Elementary will open Tuesday in the former Inman Middle School building. About 850 students from Springdale Park, Mary Lin and Morningside elementary schools will be rezoned.
The district has also remodeled Benteen Elementary School in southeast Atlanta.
Bartow County Schools launched a new online payment option for school meals. The district will move to LINQ Connect system for families to add money to their students accounts online. Money that was in the old system My Payments Plus will automatically transfer. You can register here.
Cherokee County School District is spotlighting a new state grant that will put more local fresh produce in the school cafeterias this fall. The district is part of the state’s education department’s Georgia Local Food for Schools pilot program.
All schools in the district will serve fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally grown as side entrees and offer fresh salads as one of the daily lunch entrees.
“Providing nutritious meals is an important duty for our schools, as we know our students cannot focus on learning if they’re hungry,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Our School Nutrition program improves its menu every year, with new student-tested and kitchen-made choices added regularly. It’s impressive to see all the fresh produce on the cafeteria line for children to choose from each day, and this new program will lead to even more options for them to try.”
A new superintendent is in charge for the 2023-24 school year. The City of Decatur Schools swore in Dr. Gyimah Whitaker in the role on June 13 at the Elizabeth Wilson Student Support Center.
Whitaker most recently worked for Fulton County Schools as the district’s deputy chief academic officer where she oversaw the assistant superintendents of student support services and learning and teaching.
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Adam Pugh with Griffin-Spaulding schools says the district has worked all summer blending old with the new.
“Certain things, you try to follow the pattern you have in the past. But there are always changes,” he told Channel 2 Action News.
For Griffin High School, it’s a change to a three-tiered bus schedule, so fewer bus drivers are needed and updated security. Griffin-Spalding will use the same weapon detection system used at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It evolves, something new comes out, there are new ways to get weapons in, so we have to change with the times,” said safety security coordinator Donald Britt.
Some students in Lumpkin County will have a brand new school building when they head back Tuesday.
Lumpkin County School System held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 24 for the new Cottrell Elementary School. The school replaces Lumpkin County Elementary and will serve almost 600 students.
“The conversations for this school began with our Board of Education seven years ago, and it’s because of their vision that we opened Cottrell Elementary for millions of dollars cheaper than what it would cost to build this school in today’s economy,” superintendent Dr. Rob Brown said.
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A new security system is also in place for Morgan County Charter Schools. The district says before a visitor enters any school, they must look for a camera at the front entrance and press the button on the system for a front office staff member to assist you.
There is also a new pedestrian crosswalk at Morgan County Primary School. No parking will be allowed in the board of education parking lot for drop-off and pick-up at the school.
School leaders are reminding families and their neighbors to watch their speed. The sheriff’s office will be patrolling school zones and watching out for drivers who aren’t following the state’s bus laws.
State law requires drivers to stop in both directions for buses that have their flashing red lights on and stop arm down. The only exception is on controlled access highways and divided highways.
“Drivers who are following school buses too closely are not prepared for the frequent stops made by the school bus,” Sheriff Gary Gulledge said. “Drivers should always use extreme caution when following school buses and obey the posted speed limits in the school zones.”
Not all students are heading back to school in Pickens County on Tuesday. The school district will use a staggered start with only Pre-K, kindergarten, 1st, 5th, 7th and 9th grades reporting to class.
All students will report on Wednesday.
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