Back to school changes for Atlanta Public Schools

7:21 AM, Aug 7, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Back to school photos

Video: Free meals in Atlanta schools

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

ATLANTA -- To start the school year, you have to make it to school. For many students, the only option is the bus. That's one reason the number one question parents have for Atlanta Public schools before classes begin this year is a question about bus routes.

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The routes are set, but not set in stone. The district watches bus activity for the first week or two of classes. It will make adjustments to the schedule depending on usage. The master schedule is set by enrollment.

There was one big mistake posted online this year. It appeared some students would be picked up at 5:45 a.m., creating a long wait before classes. That was an error. The earliest any student should be bused in is 6:20 a.m.

"When students arrive on campus they will be supervised appropriately. They will have a hot meal. They will have then have what is referred to as 'sponge activities' until the normal academic day starts," said Steve Smith.

Sponge activities got their name because they are designed to soak up time. They include anything from reading to learning games. Many schools offer free breakfast before school as well.

A free meal program is launching at 58 schools across Atlanta Public Schools. It's part of a federally funded plan called the CEO Program, which feeds 25,000 students locally, all for free, with breakfast, lunch and a snack. It's only available in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

An entire school qualifies for free meals if 40 percent of the school as a whole is on free or reduced lunch. The program aims at wiping away hunger at school to target children distracted by growling stomachs.

"They are not good students. They would not have the ability to do as well, which is why the importance of a healthy, balanced, nutritious meal is very critical to learning," Smith said.

A test run launched earlier this year at year round schools.

Atlanta Police and Atlanta Public Schools launched a year-round partnership with the new school year. It puts officers in high school and middle schools five days a week. These will be consistent school resource officers so the same officers are at the same schools getting to know the student body.

It's not all about watchful eyes. The program is also about creating relationships.

"We think it's going to make a difference for us with regard to how our students approach school resource officers and the type of rapport between officers, staff and students," Smith said.

The resource officers are in high schools for the new year. They'll join middle schools this January.

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