School children in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties bid summer farewell Monday morning as they loaded up backpacks and returned to school for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Hillsborough County schools open Tuesday.
To ensure a safe first day, government officials and law enforcement agencies warned motorists to slow down and be alert for school zones, crosswalks and school buses.
In Clearwater, officers were being deployed to school zones to issue tickets. Fines range from $156 for going 1 to 9 mph over the posted limit in a school zone, to $456 for 20 mph above the limit. Anything more than 29 mph over will get the driver a summons.
Failing to stop for a school bus could warrant a $271 fine.
In St. Petersburg, Mayor Bill Foster, police Chief Chuck Harmon and St. Petersburg fire Chief James Large reported to John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St. S, to wave signs advising drivers to slow down and to be aware of children.
In Hernando County, school officials braced for busing issues after a number of recent transportation changes.
They set up extra phones in the transportation department to handle a higher volume of calls. They warned that delays could be possible, telling students to arrive 10 minutes before pickup time and to stay for 30 minutes before the bus is considered late.
Three weeks ago, the School Board voted to dramatically change school start and end times in an effort to streamline bus routes.
Nine schools saw their times change by more than 30 minutes. Five changed by more than 90 minutes, and nearly every school saw some schedule change.
The changes are designed to bring most schools at various levels — elementary, middle and high — into agreement on their start and ending times, eliminating unusual times and unusual lengths of the school day.
With the changes, most elementary and K-8 schools will start at 9:15 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m. or 3:55 p.m.
High schools and middle schools generally will begin at 7:15 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m. or 2:20 p.m.