Broward County Public Schools on Monday kicked off the 2023-2024 academic year — with the day going smoothly and facing no major hiccups.
“I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the people,” Broward Schools Superintendent Peter Licata said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “I’m still beaming. Just excited and happy.”
Licata — who spent the past 29 years with Palm Beach County Schools and this summer was chosen to be Broward’s new superintendent — kicked off the school year by visiting many schools through the day and meeting with teachers and students, as well as having Mexican pizza lunch with students.
The school district on Monday also detailed some of the adjustments heading into this school year, including recapping the latest enrollment figures.
The district is down 2,827 students from last year, and enrollment now is at 202,916. With a broadened voucher program in Florida, some educators had been concerned that students would leave public schools, choosing private schools instead. (This year, the number of Florida students awarded school vouchers reportedly jumped by more than 117,500.)
Whether enrollment will rise significantly more in charter schools remains to be seen: The enrollment at Broward’s charter schools is 48,984, which is an increase of 44 from last year’s first day of school count.
The teacher shortage at district schools is less than 1%, at about 145 teachers.
There is a shortage of 792 teacher assistants.
The district still needs to hire 37 campus monitors.
Schools stayed busy Monday. At one of Licata’s middle school stops in Davie, he said got some of his hardest questions from the kids themselves. The topic: School safety. School Board member Lori Alhadeff ensured the public that classroom doors remained locked for safety, and campuses had a single point of entry with a camera and buzzing in system.
Just after 7 a.m., Licata made his first stop of the day at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, rolling up in an electric bus. He started his walk-through shaking hands with students and staff, and wishing them a good year and good luck. He also met with food service workers dishing out free breakfast.
Bus drivers also were in short supply, but Licata said it didn’t affect the routes Monday. There is a shortage of 80 drivers. The district used “pinch-hitter” drivers to make up the immediate shortfall, but said there were no lost routes. There are about 800 drivers and 800 routes.
With Broward students now back to school, all the public school districts in the tri-county area have kicked off the academic year: Palm Beach County schools started Aug. 10, and Miami-Dade began Aug. 17.
Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash