7 changes to know about as Bibb Schools students return to class

Bibb County Schools students will start the new school year with several important changes to note.

New leadership, rules and procedures are among the primary differences for the upcoming school year beginning Aug. 3.

Here are some of the key differences parents and students will encounter:

1) New Superintendent, #Built4Bibb

Bibb Schools Superintendent Dan Sims is sworn in to office by Bibb County Probate Judge Sarah Harris. His wife, Traci, holds a Bible. (Laura Corley, The Macon Newsroom)

Superintendent Dan Sims is the school district’s new top leader, replacing recently retired Curtis Jones.

Sims, 50, comes from Atlanta Public Schools where he was one of five associate superintendents.

In a presentation to the public in late June, Sims shared his vision for Bibb Schools that includes honing in on and amplifying strengths of individual students and staff. It also includes putting students at the center of district and community efforts, a philosophy communicated through the new #Built4Bibb slogan.

“It literally means that everyone who has anything to do with any student in any way … every single one of those people – their skills, their hearts, their decisions, their perspectives, their training, development and their decisions – are built to meet and identify the specific needs of our students,” Sims said of the new hashtag.

Sims has also teased a new acronym for the school district’s future branding: M.V.P. It stands for More Victory Planned. More details about M.V.P. are expected at a later date.

Sims has said he has no plans to immediately dissolve the acronym adopted for the district by his predecessor, former Superintendent Curtis Jones, who retired over the summer. Jones created the V.I.P. slogan, which stands for “Victory in Progress.”

Sims’ wife, Traci, is a retired educator. The couple’s son is a student at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and their daughter is beginning her senior year in Atlanta Public Schools.

2) No cell phones

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The Bibb County Board of Education approved a new policy in June prohibiting students’ use of cell phones during the school day.

Cell phones may be brought to school but must be kept out of sight until the end of the school day.

Previously, teachers had the authority to allow or disallow students to use cellphones in class.

The new policy stems from concerns board members had about an incident in which a student recorded a video of a teacher being physically assaulted by another student. The video was circulated on Facebook.

The new policy makes exceptions for students who have permission from the superintendent or designee, students who submit a doctor’s note documenting a health issue requiring use of a device and students whose individual education plan specifies the student requires use of a device.

3) Automated cameras enforce speed limits in school zones

Bibb County installed automated school zone speed cameras outside three schools at the tail end of the school year this spring.

The trio of new cameras – outside Ballard-Hudson Middle School, Westside High School and Weaver Middle School – captured more than 7,500 instances of speeding in the month and a half before summer break.

About 5,000 of those instances resulted in a warning letter because those occurred during the 30-day grace period. Roughly 2,000 tickets were issued for speeding after the grace period ended.

More cameras are set to be installed at Central, Howard, Northeast, Southwest and Rutland high schools and Miller Middle School, according to a resolution approved by the county commission in February 2021. The timeline for installing the additional cameras has not been announced.

First time violators are fined $75 and subsequent citations are $100.

The cameras belong to Optotraffic LLC, a Maryland company that provides photo enforcement technology for the public safety sector. The company gets $25 for each paid citation and the rest goes into the county’s public safety fund over which the sheriff has discretion.

Contested tickets are handled by the county attorney’s office in municipal court.

4) One dress code for all elementary schools

A standardized dress code for the district’s 21 elementary schools will be in effect this school year.

In the past, uniform policies differed by school. Some schools allowed students to wear blue jeans while others did not. The colors students were allowed to wear also varied by school.

Bibb Schools Spokesperson Stephanie Hartley said the old policy resulted in parents having to re-evaluate their child’s wardrobe options if they transferred their child to a different elementary school.

“The key goals with the whole unified dress code was to reduce any barriers that might keep kids from coming to school,” Hartley said.

The new unified dress code says elementary school students may wear collared shirts of any solid color, school spirit shirts, solid colored pants, shorts, skirts/skorts, dresses and uniform jumpers in either khaki, navy, blue or black. Jeans without holes and frays are allowed.

The full dress codes for all schools may be read on the district’s website: https://www.bcsdk12.net/parents/dress_codes

5) All-in-one student IDs

Students will be able to use their district-issued school IDs to board the bus, get meals at school and check out books from the library.

In the past, students presented paper passes to ride the bus. Now, students will scan their IDs instead.

The new multi-purpose IDs also function as a PINES Library card that can be used to check out material from any PINES library in Georgia. Student ID cards are not subject to PINES late fees but there is a charge for lost or damaged books. All Bibb Schools students are automatically enrolled in the PINES program but parents may choose to opt-out from the benefit. Students who already have a PINES library card may still use their student ID as it is an entirely separate account.

Students may also use their IDs to check out books from their schools’ media center.

The new student ID cards were issued in February. Replacement cards cost $5.

6) Student Data Update

Gone are the days of students toting home a stack of papers after their first day of school.

The district will now require parents to sign off on certain forms of acknowledgement and update emergency contact information via the online Parent Portal.

The online format is in part an effort to move away from paper, Bibb Schools Chief Information Officer Kevin Adams said. It also eliminates time-consuming data entry for the district and cuts out the challenge of interpreting handwritten forms.

7) Sensory rooms

Eleven schools are being outfitted with sensory rooms for students with Autism, behavioral issues and other special needs.

The rooms include things like specialized lighting, mini trampolines, swings, lava lamp-like bubble contraptions and materials of varying textures.

The following schools will have sensory rooms: Appling Middle School, Central High School, Heard Elementary School, Howard Middle School, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Northwoods Academy, Sonny Carter Elementary School, Southwest High School, Springdale Elementary School, Taylor Elementary School and Veterans Elementary School.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected]