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Back to school: What students and parents need to know as classes resume

Cumberland County offers tips on school safety, bus rides and more


It’s those three words that most parents welcome and many children dread: Back to school.

Students across Cumberland County will return to the classroom Monday, Aug. 29, to start another year of learning.

Year-round schools opened in mid-July, but the first day of classes for schools on the traditional calendar begin Monday morning.

For both parents and students, awareness of changes affecting lunch prices, bus transportation and school safety can be important to a smooth transition from vacation to the classroom.

While breakfast will remain free for all students, those who pay full price for lunch will pay slightly more, according to Shayla Banister, director of operations for child nutrition services.

Banister and other school administrators participated in a “Coffee Conversations” video provided by Cumberland County Schools on Friday to help prepare students and parents for the coming school year. A replay of the video is available at these links to the district’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The cost for lunch will be $2.65 for elementary students and $2.75 for middle and high school students who pay full price, according to Banister. That’s an increase of 50 cents, Banister said on the video.

The increases will not affect students who receive free or reduced prices for lunch at schools that meet federal income levels. In Cumberland County, 70% of schools qualify under those guidelines.

Students attending schools that do not meet the income guidelines can apply for free or reduced-price lunch individually. For information, ask the staff at an individual school or go to the district’s website, Cumberland County Schools.

For students who ride a bus to school, a new computer app can help them track it. Parents and students can get a real-time location for the bus and receive an alert when it is near the bus stop, according to Christie Harden, executive director of transportation for CCS. The app is free, Harden said in the video. More information is at Here Comes the Bus.

With school shootings and other violence in the news, many parents are concerned about school safety. George Hall, director of safety and security for the district, said in the video that steps are being taken to ensure children are safe.

“The big thing we’re doing is making sure our staff is trained in the safety procedures we’re supposed to be doing,” Hall said.

The school system also is working on safety upgrades, including mandating that all entrance doors are locked and that visitors must provide identification and be buzzed in, he said.

Other safety upgrades in the works include being able to lock classroom doors from the inside and scanners that can better identify weapons from other metal objects, Hall said.

CCS also has a School Angels program for volunteers who patrol outside a school to alert authorities of suspicious activity, he added.

The school system earlier announced that uniforms will be optional this year at schools that usually have uniform requirements. That’s because of supply-chain problems and other factors that have made uniforms unavailable in some retail stores, said Melody Chalmers McClain, associate superintendent of student support services.

Students who already have uniforms are free to wear them, she said, but they are not required this year.

McClain said students should wear clothing that is “conducive to learning.”

“We expect that clothing will not be disruptive, not be provocative or obscene,” she said in the video.

Clothing that “promotes illegal activity” is also discouraged, she said.

Shirley Bolden, CCS health services director, advised parents to prescreen their children for COVID-19 by keeping them home if they have flu-like or cold symptoms.

Students also must be fully immunized against polio and other diseases according to district guidelines. More information is at school immunization guidelines.

Jane Fields, associate superintendent of school support, advised parents and students not to stress over having the right school supplies on the first day of school. Information on suggested supplies is available at individual schools or on the district’s website, but on Monday students mainly need “something to write with,” she said.

“What’s most important on the first and every day is having happy children back in the building,” Fields said.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office also offered safety tips for parents and students as school resumes.

Drivers should be prepared for increased traffic and delays with school buses on the road in early morning and in the afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

When approaching a school zone or school bus, be prepared to stop for pedestrian traffic, the release said. Passing a stopped school bus with flashing red lights and a stop sign out is against the law. Yellow flashing lights mean slow down, and red flashing lights mean stop, the release said.

Traffic in the opposite direction must also stop when a school bus is flashing red lights unless traveling on a road with four or more lanes with a center median or turn lane, the N.C. Department of Transportation said in a news release.

Cumberland County Schools, first day of class, traditional calendar