HOUSTON – About 47,000 students at Alief Independent School District made their way back to school Wednesday for their first day.
As the district celebrates its 100-year anniversary, it is also celebrating the start of several new programs and procedures.
"It's exciting and sad, because my kids are grown up," said Maribel Alvarez as her ninth-grader left her car to attend Hastings 9th Grade Center. Alvarez looked back, her child was no longer sitting in the passenger's seat.
"This is ninth grade," parent Alicia Joseph said. "This is a whole new atmosphere and a new beginning."
Her child, Kentrell Singleton, sat patiently. He told KPRC his goal this year.
"To get my GPA up and to be successful," Singleton said.
Kentrell is part of a work sciences studies program that allows students to leave with a diploma and a work certificate. This year, there is a new 4-year program -- the Pharmacy Technicians Program at the brand new Life Sciences Academy Early College High School. It's a school within a school program at Hastings 9th Grade Center.
"These types of programs will allow the parents to save a significant amount of money in preparation for their college and career," said Beth Johnson, principal at the academy.
The program partners with Walgreens and West Houston Hospital. Students will go on job shadows, and get hands-on experience from a retail and hospital setting.
"They're not only college ready, they're career ready," Johnson said.
Also new this year is the rollout of Smart Tag on all Alief ISD school buses.
"In a nutshell what it does is it ensures that students get on the correct bus and that they get on an off at their correct stops," said Alief ISD Transportation Director Richard Torres. "What it also does from an (administrative) perspective (is) we're able to see the locations of the buses (in) real-time, to know exactly where they're at, if they're running behind (or) if they're running on time."
Students use low-cost cards to scan in and out when entering and exiting the bus. The information is downloaded to a tablet that bus drivers will have. In addition, parents will also be able to track down their children by signing up for the parent portal.
"It'll send out an alert when the bus is 10-15 minutes away from the child's bus stop," Torres said.
He said that the system also helps keep tabs on bus drivers.
"With the tablet, the drivers are held accountable," Torres said. "We know where they're at at all times. If buses are traveling at an excessive speed, we get notified, and of course we'll address that situation."
Click or tap here for information about signing up for the parent portal.
Click or tap here for information about the pharmacy technicians program.