Durham County

It’s back to school Monday for thousands of area students. Here’s what’s new.

A new Durham Public Schools bus outfitted with seat and lap belts is pictured at Holt Elementary School.
A new Durham Public Schools bus outfitted with seat and lap belts is pictured at Holt Elementary School. The Herald-Sun

Monday, summer break yields to the start of a new school year, sending thousands of area students back to class.

Year-round school students in Durham and Orange counties started their new school years in July.

And the new school year got underway earlier this month for students in Durham who are enrolled in one of the district’s small specialty high schools.

But Monday is the first day of school for the vast majority of students who attend schools on a traditional calendar in the Durham and Orange school districts and in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

Here’s what students and parents will find when the school bells ring:

Durham Public Schools

In Durham, some of the district’s more than 33,000 students will be asked to buckle up after boarding school buses.

The Durham Public Schools is taking part in a state pilot program that has allowed the school district to introduce nine new buses equipped with lap/shoulder belts into its fleet. Holt Elementary School, a year-round magnet school, became the first school to try out the new buses last month.

The remaining eight buses hit the road on the first day of school.

Newly hired Patricia Townsend will lead the new Whitted School.

The much-talked about preschool will be comprised of eight preschool classrooms, two for exceptional children, that will serve 144 children in the newly renovated, historic Whitted School building on East Umstead Street.

The Durham district will start the school year led by Superintendent Bert L’Homme, but will likely have a new superintendent before Thanksgiving.

L’Homme will step aside at the end of September and will be replaced by a new superintendent the school board hopes to have named in early October and on the job in early November.

DPS students will have a new dress code in place on the first day of school. The Durham school board revised the student dress code on Thursday night, banning the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan symbols, swastikas and other intimidating symbols.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Pamela Baldwin will begin her first full year as superintendent when the 2017-18 academic year kicks-off Monday.

Baldwin took the CHCCS reins in April after previously leading the Asheville City Schools.

CHCCS will start a new monthly internet show called “Five With The Soup” in which Baldwin will attempt to offer a deeper explanation to school-related topics in five minutes or less.

Six of the district’s 20 schools will open with new principals, some of whom are not necessarily new to the role but are serving at new schools.

CHCCS is also rolling out two new apps this year to better inform parents and the district’s projected 12,200 students.

One is a district app created by Blackboard, CHCCS’s robo call company, that provides a shortcut to the most popular areas of the district website.

Using the app, parents and students can quickly check on school lunch menus, calendars and also decide which notifications to receive.

The other is “Here Comes the Bus,” which allows parents to track their child’s buses using a mobile device or home computer.

As in Durham public schools, the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan symbols, swastikas and other intimidating symbols are now banned from CHCCS.

Orange County Schools

Orange County Schools led the way by becoming the first area district this summer to ban the Confederate flag, Ku Klux Klan items and swastikas.

Funding has been renewed so that OCS can continue to provide universal breakfast for all elementary school students.

Pathways Elementary School has a new principal, Lynn Brown.

And Efland-Cheeks Global Elementary School has the Regional Principal of the Year — Kiley Brown.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645

Back-to-school safety

The N.C. Department of Transportation issued a list of back-to-school safety tips. Here’s a look:


▪  Cross in crosswalks.

<bullet> Watch for and obey crossing guards.

<bullet> Look both ways before crossing the street.

<bullet> Be careful crossing multiple lanes of traffic.

<bullet> Make sure each lane of traffic is clear before you cross.

<bullet> Pay attention. When walking, avoid distractions like cellphones.

<bullet> Obey signs and signals.

<bullet> Cross the street where you have the best view of traffic.

<bullet> Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from the road

as you can.


<bullet> Know when to stop for school buses.

<bullet> Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

<bullet> Obey all posted school zone speed limits.

<bullet> Never pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians.

<bullet> Before turning, be sure the path is clear.

<bullet> Slow down near bus stops, schools and playgrounds.

<bullet> No drinking and driving.

<bullet> Buckle up.

<bullet> Avoid distractions such as food, passengers and using mobile devices.

<bullet> Texting while driving is illegal.

Additional Safety Tips for Teen Drivers

<bullet> Don’t speed.

<bullet> Avoid distractions.

<bullet> Cellphone use is illegal for drivers under 18.

<bullet> For provisional license holders, no more than one passenger at a time.

Stiff penalties in place

North Carolina has stiff penalties for motorists who fail to comply with school bus safety rules.

<bullet> There is a $500 penalty for motorists who are caught passing a stopped school bus, and a five point penalty on their driver license.

<bullet> A driver who passes a stopped school bus and strikes someone will face a Class I felony and

be fined a minimum of $1,000.

<bullet> The penalty increases to a Class H felony and fine of $2,500 if anyone is killed.