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Back to school

Monday marks the start of another school year in Miami-Dade and Broward, with challenges for students, teachers and administrators in and out of the classroom.

And that’s not to mention the challenge for the rest of us who will have to deal with a new traffic flow on Monday; a slower one, as 615,000 students in the two-county area get back on the road, by bus, car and bicycle.

As the year begins, looming over both districts is a possible influx of immigrant children from the border who could make their way to South Florida and send the districts akilter with their needs.

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Editorial Board he’s ready for the challenge: “We have both the legal and moral obligation to teach all children regardless of their immigration status. We shall love them, hug them and teach them.”

But there is some good news and much promise. Ding, dong FCAT is dead. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is being replaced by the Florida Standards Assessment, but is the replacement just as consuming? We’ll know later this year.

A new school year marks new beginnings. Miami-Dade and Broward schools are filled with innovations: Miami-Dade says it’s “bringing learning into the 21st century with interactive blackboards, tablets, laptops and Wi-Fi in all schools.” It’s about time.

For parents, too, there is a new and indispensable mobile app that puts everything from class schedules to bus routes at their fingertips.

The digital improvements bring an end to the lugging around of textbooks. Starting with ninth-grade, books are now digital. In some magnet schools, textbooks are gone in favor of tablets.

Parents of the more than 3,600 autistic children in Miami-Dade schools will now have their own district department to turn to for help and services. They should consider themselves lucky to have their children in our school district.

Cosmetic improvements are also on the way. Voters approved a $1.2 billion bond referendum to finance repairs and construction. How the district spends the gift from voters should be closely watched. They have been entrusted with a large chunk of cash that could renew our schools. They should be vigilant stewards of the windfall.

In Broward, school buses are going green, literally. The district has bought 98 alternative-fuel school buses which will lower operating costs while protecting the environment. Such an effort deserves an A+.

On the flip side, there are new extended hours at 32 low-performing schools. Hopefully, improvement of failing grades will be the result.

Charter school growth continues with 12 more are planned to open in Broward. To compete, public schools are offering charter school-like programs. For example, Coral Springs High will teach college classes on campus and Eagle Point Elementary in Weston will have a program where Spanish- and English-speaking students learn both languages.

And like Miami-Dade, Broward will start a campaign to try to persuade voters to pass an $800 million bond referendum to benefit schools.

Oh, and Broward is cracking down on cellphone obsessed parents. They must put away their device during drop-off and pickup.

That’s not their only challenge. The parental grind of getting up early, getting to school on time and getting homework done begins.

So let the bell ring on another school year.

This story was originally published August 17, 2014 7:00 PM.

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