Back To School For State's Largest District

It was back to school today for many local kids, including more than 210,000 students in the Houston school district, the state's largest. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, with the first day of school comes big challenges.

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Superintendent Abe Saavedra says he's optimistic as the new school year starts.

"When you come off a year like we had last year, I can't help but be optimistic. I think we're off in the right direction. There's a tremendous challenge out there, our teachers understand the challenge, our principals do as well. We've made some adjustments. We have three schools that we really have some real challenges with that we hope to be successful with this next year. So we're looking forward to a great school year."

The district is dealing with the possibility of closing three low-performing schools after this year, two high schools and a middle school. Officials are also trying to cut-into the district's high drop-out rate with a door-to-door outreach for the third straight year. Saavedra says the district is also trying-out a revised code of conduct for students.

"We're coming down harder on kids that get involved in bullying other kids. We also have authorized our principals to develop their own individual school rules as it pertains to cell phones. While we have not outlawed cell phones in schools, principals have the authority to develop whatever rules are necessary to manage the cell phone situations in their schools"

Other new programs this year include free breakfasts for every HISD student and full day pre-kindergarten for the first time. Nearly 30,000 HISD students are attending classes in brand-new or renovated facilities this year.

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