Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Education

Live blog: 300,000 students start school today in Hillsborough, Pinellas

More than 300,000 students and upwards of 22,000 teachers will come together today as the Tampa Bay area's two largest school districts — Hillsborough and Pinellas counties — begin the 2017-18 academic year.

The totals do not include thousands of school district employees who work outside the classroom.

Motorists should feel the difference today, with nearly 1,500 school buses taking to area roads for their morning and afternoon routes.

LIVE BLOG: Complete coverage, and share your photos

BACK TO SCHOOL 2017: A Times special report

READ THE GRADEBOOK: The talk of Florida education

Some highlights: Nine new charter schools and one new district school will open today in Hillsborough, where officials will continue to wrestle this year with finances as they try to balance limited funds against fast growth in the southeast portion of the county. On a lighter note, students at Potter Elementary in Tampa will celebrate the start of school with a festive "clap-in" event.

In Pinellas, Gibbs High in St. Petersburg celebrates its 90th school year starting today while kindergarten students and their parents are just starting their journeys. Many Pinellas elementary schools will host "BooHoo breakfasts" to help kindergarten parents cope with the separation.

The Tampa Bay Times invites teachers, students and parents to share their first-day experiences on Twitter at #tbtbacktoschool.

As the year progresses, districts will look to improve their graduation rates, one of the ultimate measures of success for any school system. Pinellas' rate sits at 80.1 percent, which was up nearly 2 percentage points from the previous year, and Hillsborough's rate rose 3 percentage points to 79.1.

"Not every single student comes in making the right choice," Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins said in his back-to-school news conference Monday. "Sometimes we have to help them get there."

The school year begins Monday in Pasco and Hernando counties.

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