Broward students head back to school for 2019-20 academic year

PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - Parents across Broward County are sending their children back to school for the start of the 2019-20 academic year.

More than 270,000 students and 15,000 teachers will be on the move across the county, Wednesday.

7News cameras captured Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie greeting students at Pasadena Lakes Elementary in Pembroke Pines.

“Good morning. Welcome back,” he said to a girl as she walked into campus.

Miami Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas and the team’s mascot, Billy the Martin, handed out bracelets and gave words of encouragement to students.

“For me, it’s a pleasure,” he said. “As an organization, we want to be close to the community and give back to the guys who always go to the ballpark and support us the whole year round.”

Earlier Wednesday morning, 7News cameras captured Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie at the school bus yard.

“We transport over 77,000 students around the district with about 1,200 buses that we put on the streets,” he said, “so in effect, we’re the largest transportation business in Broward County.”

Runcie has been stopping at several schools throughout the day to ensure a smooth start to the school year.

Meanwhile, police officers were on patrol at Coconut Creek Elementary to ensure everyone follows the law.

7News cameras captured an officer stopping a driver for speeding in the school zone.

“Unfortunately, you were going 28 miles per hour in a 15 miles per hour zone,” the officer told the driver.

When asked whether the first day of classes bring back memories for him, Rojas replied, “Yeah, a long time ago, when I used to wake up early for the first day, it was always exciting. For me right here, it’s the same as opening day, when you go to the ballpark for the first day and you see all your friends, and you see all the people that you missed when you’re home.”

While students were soaking up the remainder of summer vacation, teachers were in classrooms getting things ready.

“You want to create a warm, safe, nurturing environment for the children to come back to,” said teacher Elana Militzok at Beachside Montessori Village in Hollywood.

At Walker Elementary School, the Broward Educational Foundation and the Marlins teamed up to give school supplies to the students.

Parents across the county expressed mixed emotions about sending their children off to class.

Monica and Mario Varillas spoke with 7News after they dropped their daughter off at school.

“Exciting. She’s a little nervous meeting her new teachers, but it’s another year,” said Mario.

“One more year left, and then she’ll be in middle school,” said Monica. “Time goes by really fast.”

Rojas said Wednesday marks a special occasion for his family.

“I have a son of my own now that he’s going to start today, too, so I’m pretty excited about this,” said Rojas. “I just want him to have a good time. I don’t want him to be sad or shy or anything because he’s 3 years old, so it’s going to be his first experience going with him to school, but at the same time, we’re really excited about this new chapter.”

Some students said they have already set goals for the new school year.

“I’m excited to try to bring up my grades more than last year because, obviously, I wasn’t paying attention as much,” said Coral Springs student Mariya Eyssallem. “It was hard for me to focus, so I made a promise to myself. I have to at least try harder.”

When student John Paul Vazquez was asked what he liked about the first day he replied, “My teacher and my new students.”

Another area being upgraded is the food across the district.

A modified lunch menu now features new healthy and tasty treats.

“Lemongrass chicken over rice,” Runcie added. “We’ve got chicken and waffles. We have some vegan options. We even have macaroni and cheese in a cornbread bowl.”

After meeting with bus drivers at 5:30 a.m. and visiting Pasadena Lakes Elementary, Runcie continued touring other schools in the county and joined students for lunch at Coral Springs Elementary School.

“Everyone is safe. Everyone is eating lunch, so we’re really happy here,” said Coral Springs Elementary School Principal Vonda Oliver.

Down the street at Parkside Elementary School, parents picking up their children said it was a successful day.

“First day, you know, you have to be running, [there’s] traffic but it was excellent,” said one parent.

“We had a really exciting day across the county,” said Runcie. “I’ve called today our version of game day. It’s when everything begins for the new school year.”

Runcie said safety is the district’s number one priority, leading to the addition of over 1,200 security personnel to schools.

He also said they are looking to spend $53 million just on security and adding 521 additional positions.

Approximately 10,000 cameras have been placed in schools across the district and the school district plans on adding 2,500 more.

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