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Back to school for Metro Atlanta students: Key information you should know

Thousands of Metro Atlanta students are returning and preparing to return to classes for the 2014-2015 school year. How are districts preparing and what should parents and students expect?
Thousands of Metro Atlanta students are returning and preparing to return to classes for the 2014-2015 school year. How are districts preparing and what should parents and students expect?
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The Rockdale County School System was the first Metro Atlanta district welcoming students back to classes this week. Like many Metro school systems, upgraded security measures was part of the new school year routine.

With school safety being a top priority, no longer will people be able to just walk into Rockdale County Schools once classes begin. School doors will remain locked and there is a buzzer and camera outside to identify school visitors before they are allowed into a building. A 2013 Rockdale County vote supporting the Special Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) which is generating funds for safety and security upgrades, as well as technology like hand held tables for students, land acquisition for future construction and school renovations.

Atlanta Public Schools open its doors to students next week on August 4. However, motorist on Atlanta streets may have noticed some buses on route Tuesday morning. That’s because the district conducted a “route run” making sure everything goes smoothly for students when they hit the bus stops next Monday. Click here for continued updates on bus stop information provided by the APS Transportation Department. APS’s fleet includes more than 330 buses.

The APS leadership is in transition mode as new Superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen, officially step into the position. Public Broadcasting Atlanta is giving the community a chance to ask Dr. Carstarphen questions about her goals, priorities and plans to improve Atlanta Public Schools.

You can submit your question now by clicking here and completing the form, and watch for the exclusive documentary: “Day One: Atlanta’s New School Superintendent.” The program will air this September, from PBA30 TV and WABE News.

Atlanta’s districtwide opening house is set for August 1 and the times are: all highs schools from 1:00p.m. to 3:00 p.m., all middle schools from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and all elementary schools from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Also packing classrooms on August 4 is the Henry County School District. This year the system begins the school year celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of U.S. History teacher Nina Kendall. The Eagle’s Landing High teacher was recently recognized as Georgia’s History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and is now eligible for the National History Teacher of the Year recognition.

All Henry County employees are also celebrating a balanced budget for the 2014-2015 school year. As a result all employees will receive long overdue pay raises, no furlough days, and three additional professional learning days for teachers.

Henry County also join other Metro School districts welcoming students to new buildings for the 2014-2015 academic year. On July 31 the Henry County Board of Education invites the community to join them in a ribbon cutting for the new Hampton High School, located at 799 Hampton LG Rd., Hampton, GA 30228. The event begins at 12:30 p.m.

Gwinnett County Schools, the largest school district in the Georgia, will welcome its students back on Tuesday, August 5. For Gwinnett students the new school year brings: 3,200 new students; new schools including Northbrook Middle School, located at 1221 Northbrook Parkway in Suwanee, and North Metro Academy of the Performing Arts, located at 182 Hunter St. in Norcross; new programs including Dual Language Immersion, and even new self-serve salad bars providing healthy lunches for an additional 25 Gwinnett cafeterias.

However, one of the biggest changes for eight Gwinnett County schools will be new arrival and dismissal times. Three high schools, the new middle and charter schools, as well as three special entities have shifted their hours for this coming fall. Click here to see a list the list of Gwinnett schools and their new operation hours. Gwinnett County’s 2014-2015 projected enrollment is 172,383 students.

Fulton County School students head back in the next two weeks on August 11. The projected 2014-2015 enrollment of approximately 96,300 students brings an expected increase of about 1,200 students from the previous school year. The district also adds nearly 700 new teachers. Along with security measures and new construction, Fulton County is making sure district students are healthy and ready to learn. This includes a focus on Georgia's new immunization requirements for 7th graders.

Fulton County is hosting its annual back-to-school immunization drive that started this week. The service allows parents and guardians to make sure their children are up to date with all immunizations and booster shots. This is also important for students transferring from out of state schools. No student is allowed to attend Georgia school without proof of a current immunization record.

Additional services provided include dental, vision and hearing screenings. There are three sites for the immunizations and health screening: Adamsville Regional Health Center, 404-613-4215404-613-4215; College Park Regional Health Center, 404-765-4155404-765-4155 and North Fulton Regional Health Center (Alpharetta), 404-612-1876404-612-1876. The services are provided at these locations from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There is a sliding pay scale depending on insurance and income, and for some families these services will be free.

The bells also ring for the first day of classes in the DeKalb County School District on August 11. Open house is scheduled for all elementary and middle school students on August 6 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and for all 9th graders, new students and retuning high school students on August 7 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

As DeKalb County continues its focus on student growth through programs like the Growth and Achievement Model, there will also be a focus effort to encourage students to following school dress code policies. For elementary schools this has been a given, but this year some middle schools students will find that schools are serious about maintaining a stricter dress code. For example, DeKalb’s Stephenson Middle School has already mailed its parents a brochure explaining and strongly encouraging participation in the school’s “Dress for Success” uniform policy. There was no dress code policy at Stephenson Middle last year.

Across the district, girls and boys should were Polo or Oxford shirts with collars and in the school’s colors. Pants colors include Khaki or Black, and Bermuda shorts are allowed. Girls can wear skirts and dresses of the same colors. According to district officials, the uniform policy will be enforced on a school by school bases. Parents should contact their child’s individual school to determine that school’s guidelines.

With new apparel in mind, across the state parents may want to take advantage of the upcoming Georgia Sales Tax Holiday happening Friday, August 1 and Saturday August 2. Click here for a full list of tax free items.

For a complete list of more than 50 school district’s start dates click here to visit the wsb-tv Back2School site.