Students return to school in Volusia County with new policies, new teachers

School district says teacher vacancies are improving

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – More than 60,000 students are back in the classroom as the school year began in Volusia County on Monday.

To kick off the school year, Superintendent Carmen Balgobin visited with drivers at the district’s bus depot in Daytona Beach.

With 10 bus driver vacancies, Balgobin said all routes were covered and teacher shortages are also improving.

“Last year, at this point in time, we were looking at 256 classroom vacancies,” Balgobin said.  “At this point in time, we’re 97 (vacancies).”

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District leaders said schools have been able to fill every classroom with a certified teacher. It was made possible through an apprenticeship program with Daytona State College and an international teacher exchange program.

“It will provide our students not only with the opportunity to receive quality instruction because these are certified teachers, but also that cultural exchange piece as well,” Balgobin said.

The return to classes this year also comes with changes across the district.

A new rule from the state prohibits the use of a cell phone during instructional time.

Students must put away their phone or wireless device during class unless it’s allowed by a teacher for educational purposes.

“It was just too many distractions. We want to ensure that when our students come to the classroom, they have the ability to really engage in that learning process,” Balgobin said. “Sometimes when you have devices out and you’re being personally distracted, it gets in the way.”

Balgobin said there would be a warning for initial offenses, but punishments would increase for repeat offenders.

The school board has also considered a crackdown on the use of vapes on campus.

The proposal called for a student to be suspended for five days if in possession of a vape device. The suspension would be 10 days for any student caught using a vape device on campus.

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Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.