Summer is still sweltering, but students will get back to school tomorrow to begin the 2017-18 academic year, and officials are urging awareness and caution as increased traffic on roads resumes.
Buses, parents and students will all be on the road to and from the 36 Forsyth County Schools campuses, though motorists may have already seen big yellow buses beaming around neighborhoods as they went on Kindergarten Roundups this week.
The practice bus trips are an annual way for first-time youngsters to grow accustomed to riding on a bus and to their route, but it also helps bus drivers learn their route, too.
“We ask for patience during the first one to two weeks of school as our students and drivers get used to the new routes,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the district. “And, of course, safety is the most important thing for us, so our drivers will be going over safety procedures [on the bus, which may cause delays].”
Bus routes and transportation district supervisors can be found at Forsyth.k12.ga.us.
ES I schools — Big Creek, Brandywine, Brookwood, Chattahoochee, Chestatee, Coal Mountain, Cumming, Haw Creek, Kelly Mill, Matt, Settles Bridge, Sharon, Shiloh Point and Vickery Creek — begin school at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:20 p.m., with an early release time of 11:50 a.m.
ES II schools — Daves Creek, Johns Creek, Mashburn, Midway, Sawnee, Silver City and Whitlow — start at 8:20 a.m. and release at 3 p.m. on normal days and at 12:30 p.m. on early release days.
Middle schools are in class from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and release early at 1:30 p.m.
High schools start at 8:25 a.m. and end at 3:40 p.m., with early release at 12:55 p.m.
The early August start date has been a point of contention around Georgia, with several metro-Atlanta systems seeing petitions pop up from parents who want class to begin closer to Labor Day.
“Based on feedback from the community, they like the two-week winter break, a week for Thanksgiving break and a week for fall break,” Caracciolo said.
Ending the semester before winter break is ideal to have an equal 90 days for both semesters, she said, so that combined with the additional fall break is the reason for the early start — the calendar can change each year based on community feedback.
While there are no new campuses opening this year, there are, as has become standard in Forsyth County, more students attending a public school this year than ever before.
An enrollment of 47,985 students is projected by the four-month mark, Caracciolo said. Enrollment reached 46,555 by the end of May.
With that many children, teens and adults — the system employs 5,072 educators and other personnel — on the road, law enforcement officials are urging caution behind the wheel and are taking to social media to help alleviate traffic woes.
“We’re rolling out #FCSOaltroute for Facebook and Twitter so people can advise others how to get around schools on Thursday,” said Deputy Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. “We realize that a lot of parents like to take their kids for photo sessions on Thursday, and traffic is going to be somewhat congested. So for the people who aren’t taking their kids to school and are trying to get to work, we want everyone to have alternate routes.”
Rainwater said the sheriff’s office and the school system are working together to make the first few days of school go as smooth as possible, including having all school resource officers (SROs) direct traffic at campus entrances, those driving to work may want to leave early to ensure they get there on time.
Since Jan. 1, eight SROs have been added to assignment on 10 additional school campuses, Rainwater said. There are now 25 SROs, two sergeants and one lieutenant working school safety, including having an SRO on every high school campus at all times.
With new bus routes, more people on the road, and students getting on and off buses or walking to and from school, Rainwater said the biggest key to avoid mishaps or tragedy is patience and time management.
“Right now it takes me seven minutes to get to Ga. 400,” he said, “but Thursday it may take me 10-12. Just have patience.”