Students head back to school in Jefferson County

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) -- It's back to school for the more than 36,000 students heading back to the classroom in Jefferson County.

Maintenance workers have spent the summer working tirelessly to make improvements at all 56 schools district-wide.

Students and parents will notice a new initiative called, Phonics First this year. 

Kindergarten and first grade teachers have spent several hours over the summer going through training on new techniques to help students with their reading and math skills.

For dozens of students and parents though, on Thursday, they'll have to get used to a new school. 

Jefferson County School System has made some rezoning changes in Gardendale to help alleviate overcrowding. 

Thirty-five to 40 students at Gardendale Elementary are being moved over to Snow Rogers Elementary this year.

Right now, it's on a voluntary basis, but once the rezoning phase is complete a total of 233 students will eventually move over to Snow Rogers.

Dr. Orletta Rush, the executive director of special initiatives for the school system, tells CBS42 the rezoning plan will help to get rid of portable classrooms at Gardendale Elementary. 

"Classrooms are heavy at the Gardendale Elementary School, it won't alleviate the necessary use for all of them, it'll help get us started but maybe one or two of those classes can come into the building with just alleviating those 35 to 40 students," said Rush.

Full implementation of the zoning change isn't expected to be complete until next school year. 

Jefferson County administrators are taking a proactive approach to school safety.

Maintenance crews have worked non-stop throughout the summer to make security improvements at all schools. 

Crews have installed special locks on every classroom throughout the district.

 "A lock that goes at the bottom at the door, they're bolted and then they close off so you can't proceed to go in or out so it keeps whatever's going on outside of that classroom outside of that classroom and they can't come into those classrooms," said Rush.

Jefferson County switched to an online registration system this year, but will still allow parents to register their child in-person at school on the first day.

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