MEMPHIS, Tenn. - About 150,000 public school students hopped on buses, met their teachers and stood in line for lunch during the first day of class under Shelby County's newly merged school district.
Classes began today for elementary, middle and high school students who are now part of the Unified School District, one of the 20 largest school districts in the nation. The new school system is the result of a historic merger between Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools.
The merger has been described as one of the nation's largest school district consolidations in decades. Planning for the start of the school year had been bumpy at times, and questions emerged about whether things would operate smoothly on the first day of class, and beyond.
Interim Superintendent Dorsey Hopson rode a yellow school bus during a tour of several schools. The bus also contained district staff and media members.
At Germantown High School, Hopson stopped by a 10th-grade English class and walked through the large lunch room.
Hopson had said he expected some hiccups today, including issues with bus schedules and routes. While there were some minor problems with buses running late or early, it appeared to be a normal first day for students.
"This is just the first step. It's just one more hurdle," Hopson said. "We're going to be dealing with issues all day long, but this is one moment where we can take a step back and be happy about what we've done. "
In its first year, the Unified School District will have about $1 billion to work with -- about $75 million less than the premerger budgets of the city and county combined. Budget issues resulted in layoffs of hundreds of teachers and staff who had worked for the two separate districts.
The Unified School District will exist in its current form until 2014, when six Shelby County municipalities will break away and start their own public school systems with about 25,000 students combined.