The first day for students in Palm Beach County is a week away. Friday the superintendent got everyone ready with his back to school news conference.
This will be Dr. Robert Avossa's third school year as school's superintendent. During TeacherFest, a welcome party for new teachers, Avossa spoke about the importance of getting kids engaged and using every minute to do it.
Avossa pointed out problems with student attendance and tardiness. In Palm Beach County, 12% of elementary students missed 11 or more days of school before the end of the first semester last year. In many cases, Avossa says sickness and emergencies were rarely to blame.
This year 29 schools will see longer days. Class time is being extended by half an hour for extra reading time. This state mandate was put in place to help schools beef up low reading scores.
“I’m not surprised," Avossa said. "Two years ago when I got here I did an analysis of our reading program for Pre-K through 3rd grade and was shocked that we had 48 different approaches we were using."
Avossa says extending the school day is part of the solution, but says he would like to see it mandated for more than a year and for the state to pay for the added cost it will take to pay teachers for the extended time.
During Friday's news conference Avossa said the transportation department was better positioned than ever before. In 2015, buses were late, parents complained, there was a lack of working buses and not enough drivers.
Since Avossa disciplined managers, bus drivers were given raises and the district bought more buses.
This year Palm Beach County will have 78 new buses and 30 drivers on deck, in case some call out or quit.
The district's GPS bus tracker will remain unavailable for parents.
"We still think we need another year," Avossa said. "Right now we want to get our efficiency where it needs to be."
Routes will be posted August 9.