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Public schools in Virginia will begin classes in a little more than two weeks. Families new to the area should get their children registered if they have not already done so. A physical exam is required for initial enrollment at the elementary level.

FORT LEE, Va. – What do parents and caregivers need to know when sending children back to the classroom?

Put succinctly, a lot – especially if they’re new to the area and enrolling students in Virginia Schools for the first time.

Which is why the Traveller teamed up with School Support Services liaison Chaundra Taswell recently to develop the following compilation of frequently asked questions and answers. The information was pulled from school district websites and other resources. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to pay particular attention to topics such as registration requirements, the school lunch program, and student discipline and bus transportation.

Those who take the time to read this material will be better informed and may save themselves a lot of frustration later when they’re searching for answers to questions similar to those listed.

For additional information about any school-related topic, contact Taswell at 804-765-3813 or chaundra.e.taswell.naf@mail.mil.

Q: How do I register my children for school?

A: This is only a requirement for youngsters who are new to the community and/or the Virginia school system. The first step is finding out what school has been designated for the area where you live. Each housing area on Fort Lee, for example, has been zoned for a specific elementary school. Middle, junior and high school students who reside on post attend the same schools in Prince George County.

At the elementary level, grades K-5, a current physical and immunization records are required for new students. Have those documents readily available when you go to the school to complete registration. Starting today through Sept. 15, the Pediatrics department at Kenner Army Health Clinic has set Tuesday and Thursday, 4:30-5 p.m., time slots specifically for back-to-school physicals. To make an appointment, call 866-533-5242.

At the secondary level (grades 6-12), parents must have an appointment to register their dependents. For high school enrollment, it’s important to bring a student transcript from the previous school in order to determine what classes transfer and which ones are needed to graduate. Virginia is part of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. Visit www.dodea.edu/Partnership/interstateCompact.cfm for details. It’s important to remember also that registration will not be conducted on Aug. 28-30 or Sept. 3, no exceptions.

All school districts in the area provide registration guidance on their websites. To view PGC’s information, visit www.pgs.k12.va.us/guidelines_for_enrollment_of_new_students.

Q: Will my child be allowed to attend a school outside his or her assigned zone?

A: No, regardless of the reason. Virginia law states that children will attend the school that is zoned for where the family resides.

Q: What are the requirements for home schooling?

A: Parents who choose to home school their children should familiarize themselves with local laws governing education outside of the public school system. A letter of intent must be submitted to the local superintendent of the school division where the child resides. Home school curriculum must be equivalent to Virginia Standards of Learning. Additional information can be found at www.pgs.k12.va.us/home_schooling and helpful tips are available through sites such as www.homeschool-life.com (subscription required).

Q: If I have questions about bus transportation, who should I contact?

A: If you have questions or concerns about transportation, start by contacting the principal or teacher where your child goes to school. If you still have questions or concerns, you may contact Prince George School Transportation at 804-733-2712. The business hours are 7:15 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

Q: What other bus rules should I be aware of?

A: During the first week of school, children should be waiting at their assigned bus stop at least 15 minutes early as routes are being adjusted and scheduled pickup (and drop-off) times may vary. Parents are not allowed on school buses unless they are serving as a field trip chaperone or bus monitor, where applicable.

Parents of pre-school through 2nd grade students must be at the bus stop to receive their child or they will not be permitted to exit the bus. In this situation, the child/children will be transported back to their school, the parents will be contacted by school administrators and advised they need to pick their child up at the school. In some cases, students will be allowed to exit the bus with an older sibling.

A transportation request form must be completed before any student, regardless of grade level, is allowed to ride any bus other than the one to which he or she is assigned. Temporary bus passes can be obtained with a note from the parent to the school front office. For additional information, download the Transportation FAQ document at www.pgs.k12.va.us/forms__documents (scroll down to bottom left corner of page).

Q: If my child misses the bus, what should I do?

A: If the student misses the bus going to school or coming home, it is the parent’s responsibility to provide transportation.

Q: How do I handle discipline problems on the bus?

A: All concerns or complaints need to be directed to the school administrative office or transportation. School bus drivers are on a strict time schedule and are not permitted to confer with parents at bus stops. Discipline problems that do not occur on school property – i.e., neighborhood bus stops – must be resolved through your housing area coordinator or chain of command. Parents also may request assistance from School Support Services and/or the military police.

Q: What is the procedure for resolving discipline problems/bullying in school?

A: Start with your student’s teacher followed by school administrators if necessary. If the problem cannot be resolved at the school level, contact the district superintendent’s office. The Prince George County School System has published a comprehensive Student Conduct and Safety Handbook. It can be downloaded from the following link: www.pgs.k12.va.us/forms__documents. If problems persist, you may want to contact the military police in case of emergency issues or concerns.

Q: Are cellphones allowed at school?

A: Most schools allow students to carry wireless communication device (i.e. cellphones), but they must not be visible or powered on during the school day. Use of the devices at other times on school grounds cannot disrupt learning or extracurricular activities. Wireless devices cannot be used on the school bus while en-route to or from school.

Q: What is the policy for students who require medication during the school day?

A: Students are not allowed to possess medications of any kind including cough drops, headache capsules, decongestants and allergy pills. All alcohol and tobacco products also are prohibited. All medication requirements must be coordinated and documented with the school nurse to avoid serious consequences.

Q: How do I find out if my student is eligible for reduced-price meals?

A: Eligibility for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Programs is based on household size and income. Families who qualified last year will continue to receive the benefit for the first few days of the new school year so parents will have time to complete an updated application. For an eligible income chart, additional details and the online application form, visit www.myschoolapps.com/Application. General information about the school lunch program is available under the Parents/Cafeterias menu option on the pgs.k12.va.us webpage.

Q: Who do I contact if my family has to relocate during the school year?

A: School administrative offices can assist you with transfer paperwork and required transcripts.

The school liaison strongly recommends parent attendance at back-to-school nights, typically scheduled a few weeks into the new academic year. It is a great opportunity to meet teachers, understand expectations and show youngsters that education is important. All parents should pay attention to crisis response plans and requirements as well, to include providing the school with good contact information to be used in an emergency.