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Pinellas County welcomes nearly 96,000 students to school, new upgrades in place for new school year

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Posted at 5:04 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 18:57:31-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.  — School is back in session in Pinellas County. The new year comes a lot of new upgrades for the eight largest school district in Florida.

On Wednesday, over 95,000 students returned to class in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

It’s an exciting day for some parents like Da’vid Moore whose son starts kindergarten this year. “We’re all actually going back to school. Me and my wife are both starting college again and my son is going to school. We’re all excited,” Moore said with glee.

It’s an emotional day for others like Nicole Smythe whose three daughters now attend the same school: Maximo Elementary in St. Pete.

“They’re my world. It’s hard but we get through it,” she said fighting back tears as she walked hand-in-hand with her 4, 6 and 10 year old daughters.

This school year feels more normal, with an emphasis back on in-person learning, the return of field trips and a new superintendent at the helm.

Kevin Hendrick is ready to take the district to the next level. “The last couple years we have been thrilled just to have people show up to work and that they weren’t sick. That’s what we had to deal with as a community through COVID. Now, we really want to elevate our expectations for academics, for behavior, for outcomes for our students and get to a spot where our community is incredibly proud of the outcomes for every student,” he elaborated.

A big part of that is keeping kids, teachers and staff members safe. Over the summer, district leaders activated a new ALERT system. It gives law enforcement instant access to camera feeds and door locks in the event of an emergency. That’s reassuring for middle school dad Darin Talbert.

“I’m especially concerned with schools staying safe just with the way things are right now. I’m looking forward to things staying cool, calm and collected for the school year,” he added.

Within the next few weeks, Pinellas County plans to launch a new app where parents can track their students bus in real time using GPS. That should be up and running sometime in September, according to district leaders.

25 electric school buses will soon be added to Pinellas County Schools fleet by December of 2022.

Pinellas County also extended free VPK with 16 additional classrooms and 3 additional free all day VPK sites. The total VPK sites is now 70.

Six middle schools are now piloting new science curriculum and Pinellas County has enhanced its college and career programs.

Even school sports are getting a boost with bowling now offered at high schools district-wide and flag football added to middle schools.