The 2023-2024 school year officially kicked off on Thursday as 39,418 students in Marion County headed to their respective schools for the first day of class.
In a press release, Marion County Public Schools stated that the first day of school was “a great success according to stakeholders including students, employees, and families.”
Attendance on the first day was around 88% of this year’s projected enrollment of 44,487 students. MCPS stated that this number typically increases throughout the school year.
Stagger-start kindergarten during the first three days will help raise the overall attendance figure as soon as Tuesday, August 15, when all kindergarten students will show up together for the first time.
In middle school, only 242 seventh graders showed up for class without the required immunizations thanks to several drive-thru and health clinic events that were held in Marion County.
MCPS stated that there were no major issues during opening day, and operations were described as being smooth, organized, and efficient. Car lines and cafeteria lines were both busy throughout the day, and there were some last-minute student registrations.
Cafeteria workers served over 37,000 breakfast and lunch meals to students at 55 school sites. All students are eligible for free meals this year thanks to the Community Eligibility Provision initiative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Most school buses showed up on time or within the first few minutes of class, which gave students enough time to eat breakfast. Some buses experienced delays due to higher-than-expected student counts at bus stops, double routes, new drivers on new routes, families unfamiliar with bus stop locations, and drivers placing colored wristbands on younger students to designate them as bus riders during the afternoon dismissal.
“Transportation delays are a common and expected occurrence during the first days of school,” stated MCPS. “Once drivers become aware of students and students learn their bus route numbers, stop times and locations, these concerns dissipate.”
The Marion school district’s GPS-enabled free mobile app, “Here Comes the Bus,” provides instant bus locations to users who register for the app with their student’s information.
By midday on Thursday, the district’s Transportation hotline (352-671-7050) received 990 phone calls, which is 25 fewer than the same time last year. This hotline offers help to parents with bus questions and concerns, and it operates each school day from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Additional district staff will help answer this hotline during the first week of school to better serve callers. The district’s Technology Help Desk also answered 131 calls from classroom teachers and other school technology users.
Across the district, thousands of students, parents, families, and employees welcomed the first day of school with energy and excitement. MCPS stated that most aspects of opening day ran smoothly, and four schools welcomed new principals.
For more information, contact the MCPS Public Relations Office at 352-671-7555.