Hernando and Pasco counties' back-to-school effort is earning high marks from parents so far Monday morning. Now, if only getting all those students back home can go as smoothly.
According to Pasco school district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli, there were "zero problems with bus issues and no phone calls" as the first of about 67,000 students began reporting to Pasco schools at 7:30 a.m. Openings were to continue through 9:45 a.m. in Pasco.
Among the changes in Pasco County this year are earlier 7:30 openings for some schools and a new wristband policy for elementary school children to ensure they are dropped at the correct bus stops.
In Hernando, transportation issues were "manageable" this morning, said transportation director Linda Smith.
Phones were ringing steadily, but not off the hook, Smith said.
"Every once in a while we hear silence, and that's unusual," she said. "I avoid using the word q-u-i-e-t because that's when the wheels go off the buggy."
Wheels have stayed on buses, but one on the way to Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill did break down, Smith said.
Hernando's start times range from 7:28 to 9:25 a.m. The district expected nearly 23,000 students Monday morning, and about half of those ride the bus, Smith said.
Brooksville resident Christy Higdon's morning went smoothly, but it wasn't without tears.
Higdon took her son Ruben to his kindergarten room at Brooksville Elementary. He didn't cry, but she did, after she left the room.
"At first he didn't want me to go," Higdon said. "Then he saw another child come in and say goodbye to his parents, and he was fine."
Hillsborough and Pinellas schools open Tuesday.