FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Hours before the doors opened at James Madison High School in Vienna, the sounds of drum lines and cheering could be heard. Dozens of students arrived bright and early to celebrate the new school year. Monday marks the first day of school for the approximately 180,000 students that live in Fairfax County.
"It's awesome," said Scott Braband, the Superintendent for the school system.
Brabrand said there were a number of new features this year for both students and parents. One big change was the decision to give every single high school student in Fairfax County a laptop this school year. This is part of a five-year plan to eventually give these laptops to every student above third grade.
"We're closing the digital divide in Fairfax County," he said. "And giving every kid equitable access to all of our curriculum materials online."
The school system has also launched a brand new app called "Here Comes The Bus," which will allow parents and students to monitor the location of busses. "Waiting around for the bus," Brabrand said "is a thing of the past."
There is also an increased focus on security in Fairfax County. Jeff Platenberg, Assistant Superintendent, who focuses on security issues, said that the focus first began following the Parkland shooting. In response to this horrific incident, the school board directed the superintendent's office to evaluate their security procedures and offer recommendations.
As a result, the school system has now hired eight people to focus on security training in the schools, 18 people to act as psychologists or social workers in the schools, and they've allocated money to replace classroom door locks. The process cost the school approximately $4 million.
"We have to adjust," said Platenberg. "We have to provide for students so that they can live, learn, and thrive like we did when we grew up."