First day of school brings changes to Bessemer City Schools

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BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — On Monday, students at Bessemer City Schools returned to class wearing the clothes they picked out – not the uniforms they’ve been required to wear in the past.

It was one of several changes for the district as a new school year began.

Earlier this spring, district leaders decided to do away with the uniform requirement as part of a new dress code. Parents played a role in the change by voicing their opinions in a survey the district sent out before the start of the new school year.

“Seventy-three percent of our parents responded to our survey and stated that they would like to update our uniform policy and to actually come out of uniform and start a new dress code,” district director of student services Barbara McCoy said.

School visitors will also notice a change this school year. Each time they go to a school, they’ll be checked in with the LobbyGuard Defender system. They’ll have to show their ID, which will be scanned to provide school leaders with a basic background check. It’s an added layer of security for schools in the district.

“It’s a instant background check, not a complete background check, but it tells us certain information – pertinent information – that we will need to make sure that whoever’s on our campus, that it’s safe for them to be on our campus visiting,” said Linda Roper Richardson, director for attendance and security at BCS.

Leaders have also addressed problems the district encountered last year, including the one that led to confusion about the grade level of 12 students. The students arrived on the first day last year expecting to be in 9th grade, but were told they were in 8th grade. They had taken a class called Plato designed to help over-age middle school students combine 7th and 8th grades as a way to catch up. But the program wasn’t supposed to exist and was going on without the superintendent’s knowledge. It led to an issue with the students’ credits.

McCoy told CBS 42 she didn’t expect the problem to happen again this year.

“We have certainly monitored our records more closely,” she said. “And we have put in place additional personnel to handle those issues.”

Another problem in the district last year was unauthorized football practices, which led to coaching changes and, ultimately, the hiring of Andrew Zow as the team’s new head coach. McCoy said the former Alabama quarterback has the integrity and fortitude to move the team forward.

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