Students return to Chester County schools

Children board the school bus on Day 2 of school in southern Chester County. Chris Barber — Avon Grove Sun

August still has a week to go, but the yellow buses are running and students are back to school in eight of the county’s 12 public school districts. With many districts forced to push back graduation and the end of school to later than usual in June because of the excessive number of snow days, summer vacation was abbreviated on each end.

One reason for districts to choose an early starting date this year was to align their calendar with that of the Chester County Intermediate Unit. The CCIU schedules for the there Technical College High Schools at Pickering, Brandywine and Pennock’s Bridge all have an Aug. 25 start date for students, as do the CCIU Learning Center and the Child and Career Development Center.

Great Valley, Owen J Roberts, Tredyffrin Easttown and West Chester School Districts buck the trend, all starting on Tuesday, Sept. 2, after the Labor Day holiday is out of the way. In Tredyffrin Easttown, the youngest students get an additional break with the start of their Kindergarten classes backed off until Sept. 8.

As students come back to their classrooms, many will find additional security measures have been put in place. Several county school districts took advantage of the summer vacation weeks to have new security devices installed, and even to make physical changes to the campus.

Although districts do not disclose the full details of their security plans, some features will be obvious. Districts like Oxford now have joined others and installed new electronic access systems that check a visitor’s ID at the office as they enter a building. These not only track the individual, but alert the staff if the person is listed a registered sex offender.

Other upgrades to campus security are easy to spot, such as Avon Grove’s new fencing around the portable classrooms at the Avon Grove High School and Fred S. Engle Middle School.

Each school has its own character and traditions, even though new staff and new administrators may be joining long-term teachers as the school year begins. Parents in some districts will send their children off to school with note pad computers replacing pads of paper and books.

Districts are taking advantage of new technologies in many ways. In Downingtown, the popular Rosetta Stone software is being used for language learning, while other district utilize a variety of online programs to track homework, send home messages from teachers and let students keep up with their assignments if they miss a day of class.

As always, motorists need to be aware of the buses returning to the roads, along with some new bus routes going later into the afternoon and early evening hours. The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District is offering a new after school activities bus this year. The new service for students with after school activities departs from Patton Middle School at 4:45 p.m. and from the Unionville High School at 5:50 p.m. Families are paying for the service at $8 per individual trip, or reduced rates of $60 for a 10 day pass or $145 for a fall season pass.

Meanwhile, in the Avon Grove School District, the parents may look at the changes and shake their heads at how different things are from their day, but some things remain the same. Teams still win or lose on the athletic fields, homecoming will be celebrated, and it will not be long before the first school plays and music recitals begin.

The Web site message from Avon Grove Superintendent Christopher Marchese sums up the excitement of the season well. “We look forward to seeing all of the students bright and early on Monday, Aug. 25, for our first day of the new school year. On behalf of the board of directors, administration, faculty and staff, I thank you for your continued support and wish you the very best in this coming year.”