In The Classroom

Thousands of students back in class

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's probably something kids didn't want to hear this morning -- school bells

[YOUR PICS: Send in your first day of school photos or videos!]

Schools across the state are now back in session and that includes six new charter schools in HISD. The district says it will give parents more choices this year. HISD will also open two new facilities built with bonds. They include Sugar Grove Elementary School and the East Early College High School.

HISD is also making a few changes this year.

  • The district will allow parents to track their child's grades, progress and attendance throughout the school year.
  • The district is changing the way it prepares school meals. It's expanding its fresh fruit and vegetable program to offer healthier meals for students.
  • There's also an online nutrition program that lets parents see what their children are eating and prevent them from buying certain types of snacks.
Travis reopening today

One school re-opening today is Travis Elementary. The school in the Heights made headlines last spring when HISD closed the school due to the massive swine flu outbreak. And even though the school's now cleaned, officials say the swine flu could come back.

Students returning to Travis will be taught a lot this fall, not just their regular lessons, but also how to prevent the spread of swine flu.

Travis closed in the spring after an outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu and did not reopen because it was so close to the end of the school year. The entire facility was scrubbed and federal investigators with the CDC came in to try to map out the path of the outbreak there. Twenty-eight students were sickened.

Health experts expect to see the virus in schools again this year, but teachers will emphasize the basics - hand-washing and use of hand sanitizer, and if a child feels sick, reporting that to an adult at the school right away.

A vaccine for the swine flu is due out in mid-October, but parents are urged to go ahead and get the regular flu vaccine for their children before that vaccine is ready.

New school in Pearland

A brand new high school will be opening in Pearland today. Glenda Dawson High School will open its doors to roughly 2,000 students. Students and parents got a run through of the campus yesterday, so today they will be able to find their classes. The new campus is 360,000 square feet. The road in front of the school, Cullen, is undergoing construction, which could lead to traffic backups.

"We have a bunch of challenges starting (Monday), from the cafeteria, to getting kids to class on time, all the challenges that most schools will have when they open up," said Dawson Principal David Moody.

Dawson high school is the second high school built in Pearland.

Cy Fair ISD growing

There are three new schools in Cy-Fair ISD. Today is the grand opening for Smith Middle School, Swenke Elementary School and the alternative Learning Center West. The schools will open, despite the fact the district is still dealing with some big budget problems.

Those budget problems have caused the district to make drastic cuts, including canceling bus service to kids living within two miles of their school. The Cy-Fair chool board voted last month to keep the 20-percent homestead exemption. That means they needed to make up the $14.2 million they were losing. Other cuts were made in staff and programs.

Rolling billboards in Santa Fe

Residents in Santa Fe will notice their school buses look a little different this year. The Galveston County Daily News says the school district made a deal with an advertising firm to place ads on buses in exchange for 50 percent of the revenue. Other school districts that will sell ad space on buses include Cy-Fair, Humble, Pasadena, Dickinson and Pearland.

HISD Hotline

A reminder for parents of students in HISD -- the district reactivated its back to school hotline to help you get your back to school questions answered. The number is 713-556-8900. The line is open from 9am until 4pm today through Wednesday.

Preventing truancy

Twelve area school districts are partnering with an upgraded stay in school program to prevent truancy. The prevention program first sends out warning letters from District Attorney Patricia Lykos. More unexcused absences mean students may take part in diversion plans, including counseling and community service work. If they still continue to miss school, parents and kids could face fines up to $500 dollars.

Keep off the phone

Soon, many more drivers will have to put away cell phones in school zones throughout Texas. A new state law goes into effect September 1, making it illegal to talk on cell phones without a hands free device in a school zone. Violators could face fines of up to $200. But police can only enforce the new law if cities post signs warning you about the cell phone ban. Right now, West University is one of the only local communities with this signs and many cities, like Houston, say they don't plan to spend the money on signs just yet.

Social networking schools

Several districts will try something new to stay in touch with students and their parents. They're connecting with them through the social networking website Twitter. HISD's North Region's Twitter page started up this summer and has 160 followers who get reminders about upcoming events. Spring Branch ISD has 276 users tracking school news.

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