School officials unveil new programs as students head back to class

MIAMI (WSVN) - Summer is out and school is in, as hundreds of thousands of students and educators across South Florida headed back to the classroom, Monday.

Students across Miami-Dade and Broward are getting to know their new teachers and classmates, while getting used to plenty of changes this school year.

In Miami-Dade, up to 340 schools were back in session and welcomed over 300,000 students back into the classroom.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho helped to start the school year by handing out free breakfast meals to school bus drivers. Hours later, Carvalho greeted Norland Senior High School students, with chants of, “Fired up!”

Alberto Carvalho
Alberto Carvalho

Students were seen in the hallways happy to be back. “Class of 2017, you already know!” said one student.

“I feel like this year will be a great year for everyone,” said junior Kadeja Johnson. “Everybody will feel new, everybody will be able to do things better now since it’s a new school year, new attitude.”

Sunday evening, 7News cameras followed Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as he toured iPrep Academy, one of more than 100 schools in the district that have seen improvements. “No student’s been here. This is a brand-new area of expansion of iPrep,” he said as he examined the renovated space.

Over in Miami, Aburndale Elementary got a much needed renovation. “We’ve been working all summer,” said Ania Marti, the principal at Auburndale Elementary School. “We love our new lobby, we love our new windows, our new air conditioner. We are excited, outside is going to be a magnificent reflection of the greatness that is happening inside the school.”

“We spent close to half a billion dollars to renovate our schools,” said Carvalho.

The superintendent said many of these schools will be offering more educational opportunities during the 2016-2017 school year. “We now have 600 Choice programs in Miami, 61 brand-new programs opening this year,” he said.

Miami-Dade students will return to some innovative classrooms at dozens of schools in the district that have seen summer upgrades and renovations. “The iconic big prize is the brand-new Norland Senior High School. a $42 million investment,” said Carvalho.

The district also poured $3.8 million into Mast Academy in Homestead. The medical magnet school will debut a new advanced placement capstone program.

“We are so proud that we can give students a high school education that is intertwined with their interests,” said Mast Academy Principal Lisa Noffo.

Last but not least, schools all across the county got a pretty impressive technology upgrade, which include 35,000 new mobile devices, 900 interactive white boards and 8,000 new desktop computers in classrooms.

The Miami Heat were involved in the big day by handing out school supplies at Shadowlawn Elementary School.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue dealt with issues outside of the classroom with “Operation: Stop, Drop and Roll.” “Stop your speed,” said MDFR Lt. Shane Pyle. “Drop to 15 miles per hour, maintain that steady 15 miles per hour and look out for children.”

In Broward County, Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie started his day before the sun came up, when he greeted bus drivers as they were doing heir safety checks before heading out.

“This is a day we live for,” said Runcie. “We look forward to the start of the school year.”

Some students get to school by grabbing a ride with their moms, like students Walter and Angela Bravo at Gulfstream Academy of Hallandale Beach. “I guess they are just looking to learn,” said Karen Avecedo, who also dropped off her children. “It’s a new neighborhood, new school, and they just want to do better.”

Teachers in Broward County greeted nearly 270,000 students who, officials said, will also have more access to technology. “We have deployed over 50,000 computer devices in schools this year,” said Runcie.

Coconut Creek High School will be home to Broward’s newest technical program, Creek Technical Academy, which will give students access to 33 career and dual enrollment programs in fields such as business management and health science.

“As a school surrounded by specialty schools, we just wanna be in the game,” said Coconut Creek High School Principal Scott Fiske. “Thanks to the wisdom and the vision of the school board and the district staff and their hard work, we’ve been given the opportunity to compete.”

Robert Runcie
Robert Runcie

More than a hundred schools got digital classrooms, as computer science is brought to the forefront of education.

In addition, Runcie said, dual language schools are growing. “Students are receiving instruction in English and then a target language, Spanish or French,” he said.

Broward also spiced things up in the cafeteria. Schools teamed up with celebrity chef Rudy Poindexter to revamp the menu as part of the school district’s “Power-up Campaign.”

“We’re just trying to retrain the mind and change the mindset on what they’ll be consuming,” said Poindexter. “Food is fuel for the brain.”

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