Education

School off to a smooth start in Miami-Dade, Broward

First graders Emily Lund-Larsen, 6, left, and Lael Ponder, 6, share a conversation after being assigned seats next to one another on the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Students attended the first day of school with pouts, smiles, and hugs at iPrep Academy.
First graders Emily Lund-Larsen, 6, left, and Lael Ponder, 6, share a conversation after being assigned seats next to one another on the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Students attended the first day of school with pouts, smiles, and hugs at iPrep Academy. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The superintendents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Florida’s largest school districts, reported that all went well on the first day of school Monday — except for minor busing hiccups.

There were some traffic delays in Miami-Dade and an incident where students in Broward weren’t picked up by their bus, but otherwise the massive school systems got off to a smooth start.

More than 90,000 students boarded buses in Broward. That number was more than 60,000 in Miami-Dade.

“This is a perfect first day of school,” said Miami-Dade school board chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman.

Around 3:40 p.m., near the time middle schools dismissed their students for the day, Broward School Board members and Superintendent Robert Runcie praised their teachers, administrators and bus drivers for a positive start to the district’s 100th year in operation.

“I'm going to give it an A,” he said, grading the first day of school. “We'll try to get that plus.”

In response to reports that buses failed to pick up some students in Miramar, Runcie called the problem “a fairly isolated situation.” He said the district’s transportation problems are well in the rear view mirror.

Both superintendents touted new magnet programs and other education options this year.

In Miami-Dade, the district opened Downtown Doral Charter School, where students learn in English, Spanish and Portuguese. In a unique partnership, the school was built with private dollars but is managed by the school district rather than a private entity, like most charters. Doral Mayor Luigi Boria dropped off his granddaughter there Monday morning.

“There’s something for everyone in Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.

Much of the growth in choice programs has been fueled by charter schools.

Runcie said that, while charter school enrollment grew by about 5,500 students, enrollment in traditional public schools in the county grew for the first time in more than a decade, by about 1,200 students. He said that’s a sign the district is becoming more responsive to what parents and students want.

“I've always said that charter schools have put us in a competitive marketplace. We've got to step up our game,” he said. “Based on the numbers I'm looking at, we're responding and having success."

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