PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Despite shortages, Pinellas County School District leaders said they are optimistic about the school year. They have made plenty of adjustments to try and ensure a smooth start.
Nearly 94,000 students started school in Pinellas County today.
The Moody sisters were headed into Eisenhower Elementary School for the first time this morning, fully prepared.
“We got socks, pencils, pens, and books,” said Ariyah Rhyanna Moody.
Pinellas School District leaders, like Superintendent Kevin Hendrick, got off to an early start to monitor a successful first day of classes.
“There will be a certified teacher in every single classroom today,” Hendrick said. “We’ll have district staff, we have school staff covering, those that aren’t assigned to students, so every student today will walk into class with a teacher in front of them.”
Those are accommodations made as the district faces a teacher shortage of 100 open positions. But Hendrick said it’s because they focus on acquiring teachers with a degree and in turn, make the parents happy.
“They’d rather have a quality teacher than a substitute and we’re working hard on that,” Hendrick said.
Rhyanna Moody isn’t just excited to meet her teacher, but also…
“To learn and make more friends,” said Moody.
While the sisters will be riding their bikes to school, some other students are going to be affected by the bus driver shortage. Combined routes and early start times are the case for some kids.
“Look, we want to get kids to school on time, we want to get them home on time, so we’ve become more efficient,” Hendrick said.
District officials said they are only short about 10 drivers now after implementing a higher starting wage and bonus incentives for school bus drivers.
If the Moody sisters had one more week of summer they’d be…
“Swimming,” said the Moody sisters.
But kids like them said they are also excited about the school year. Hendrick also said there will be more field trips and more engaging activities in the classroom.
The superintendent also said he wants to see parents at the schools more often. He encourages them to volunteer, chaperone field trips, and be involved in extracurricular activities.