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What’s new in the new school year

The new school year is under way. Here are a few things parents and families can expect:

SAY YES: It's going to be Cleveland’s first full school year as a chapter of Say Yes to Education. Say Yes is best known for providing college and other postsecondary scholarships, but just as important are support services that the Say Yes Cleveland will begin rolling out for students and families this fall.

Services such as mental health counseling, legal assistance and after-school programming will help families overcome barriers to success and keep students on track to graduation. The assistance, coordinated by a family support specialist in each building, will debut at 16 schools this year and remaining schools over the next three years.

“These are services to which many of our kids and families don’t have automatic access,” CEO Eric Gordon said. “Having these services will improve our student’s ability to learn and our teachers ability to teach them.”

LONG-TERM PLANNING: The early part of the school year is expected to bring decisions on the future of academic programs and facilities.

The Board of Education, which began studying K-8 schools in the spring, will add high schools to the mix. The board is expected to hold public meetings in September and October, with decisions likely to follow in November.

CMSD is trying to make efficient use of limited resources, while also ensuring that all neighborhoods have access to a quality education and modernized buildings. This could mean consolidating some schools and closing some buildings.

Decisions will be based on extensive feedback and data reflecting academic quality, enrollment trends and forecasts, and the status of building use and conditions across the city.

DISTRICT GOALS: The District has three goals for the school year: Continue making academic gains, establish a standard of excellence in operations like cleaning and food service and maintain CMSD’s financial health.

BRICKS AND MORTAR: Waverly School students came back to a new building on the first day of classes. Meanwhile, construction continues on two high schools that are scheduled to receive students at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The projects are part of a continuing modernization program funded by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and local bond issues.

SC4K: Shoes and Clothes for Kids and the makers of French Toast school wear will supply uniforms, other clothing and school supplies to entire K-3 classrooms in five schools: Almira, Alfred A. Benesch, Whitney M. Young, Marion-Sterling and Memorial. It’s a three-year pilot program designed to improve attendance and raise third-grade reading scores.

LEAD TESTING: CMSD and Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing will expand screening of young children for high levels of lead in their blood. The testing covers children ages 3 to 6. Lead is a problem in the city because a majority of the city's housing was built before 1978, when lead paint was banned.

SPORTS UPDATE: The Senate League will split into two divisions, based on last season’s performance, for boys and girls basketball. And four CMSD high schools will compete in a statewide esports league, up from two that got into esports last year. MC²STEM and Ginn Academy will join the Cleveland High School for Digital Arts and John Marshall School of Information Technology. 

NEW-LOOK MENU: High schools will introduce revamped cafeteria menus featuring dishes similar to those served by food trucks. The School Nutrition Department previewed simple but creative and spicier offerings at a school board meeting in June. New items will debut in November.

ALONG FOR THE RIDE: The Transportation Department will seek to expand use of a free app that allows parents and caregivers to monitor the travel of yellow buses carrying their children.