DeKalb, Fulton students see new security changes, staffing shortages on 1st day of school

Tens of thousands of students across DeKalb and Fulton counties headed back to class Monday.

District officials say students will see a few new changes and improvements to security for the first day of school.

Both counties are also dealing with shortages in staffing, which administrators say they were working to address in the days leading up to classes.

In Fulton County, the school system welcomed nearly 90,000 students, with Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney saying they are "all systems go" for everyone's first day.

"We have spent the entire summer getting ready," Looney said.

In order to keep children in Georgia's fourth-largest school system safe, the district has implemented new intruder drills, sign-in software, and more.

"We have our challenges, but we're not going to shy away from our challenges," Looney said. "We're going to confront them head-on."

One of those challenges is a shortage of school bus drivers.

According to Fulton County Schools' COO Noel Maloof, the county has more than 20 schools that do double school bus routes in the morning.

Maloof says there shouldn't be any delays, but they may have to get on a bus "a few minutes earlier than normal."

The district says it has been actively working to address the issue - which other districts across the state and country are facing.

"We start at over $20 an hour. We offer full benefits. We have guaranteed hours. So our bus drivers, you know, we do as best we can with their pay and it stays very competitive," he said.

The district says parents can use the Here Comes the Bus app to keep an eye on bus times.

DeKalb County's first day of school

In DeKalb County, the district has bulked up its security enhancements for its more than 92,000 students.

School officials say it will use screening devices and has installed emergency buttons to alert school resource officers to the exact location of an incident.

Officials believe the new security details should reduce response times.

"It’s going to give our schools a sense of calm and an enhanced  sense of security. It’s going to give a greater peace of mind when our students and staff members come in each day they know there are measures in place that they are coming with weapons or dangerous weapons that shouldn’t be in the school house," said Dr. Norman Sauce, the area superintendent of high schools.

DeKalb County school leaders say they've hired more than 700 educators for the new year, but they're still down 400 to be fully staffed.

The district plans to start a teacher residency program to prepare future teachers for certification.

In the meantime, the district will use other support staff members to fill in the gaps for the first 45 days of school.

Also heading back to class today are Oglethorpe County's high school students and all students in the county whose last names begin with the letters A through L.