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Back to school 2018

Hamilton County students are heading back to school Wednesday. For parents with children returning to class, lunches have probably been packed, new shoes tied and school supplies gathered, but the first day of school might affect you even if you are not a parent.

Here are some things you should know to help the first day of school go smoothly.

1. Make sure your student gets to school on time!

More than 44,000 students and 6,500 employees will be returning to the classroom Wednesday. Start times vary in the 79 schools across the district, with the earliest bells ringing at 7:15 a.m. and the latest at 9 a.m. Dismissal begins around 2:15 and extends throughout the afternoon. To check the bell times at your child's school, visit www.hcde.org/parents/bell_times or call 423-498-7020.

2. Don't speed — or text — in school zones.

More parents, children and school buses will be on the road as school starts back up. Tennessee law requires requires anyone traveling in either direction to stop when a school bus has its stop sign out. The only exception is when a highway is divided by a concrete or grass median. Most school zone speed limits are 15 or 25 mph.

Also, a new law went into effect this year banning any and all uses of cellphones by drivers in school zones. Talking on the phone while driving in an active school zone is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $50.

Matt Lea, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, said things will, for the most part, be business as usual. "However, our deputies will be out in the community making sure tomorrow is a safe day for our returning students and parents."

3. Keep an eye on the sky.

Wednesday won't be as hot as it has been. A front is moving over the area that will keep temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s, according to WRCB-TV Channel 3. It'll be a little cloudy with some scattered storms, but overall, it will be good weather for the first day of school.

4. Make sure you know where your child's bus stop is.

There are more than 230 bus routes serving more than half of Hamilton County's students. To find your child's bus stop, visit www.hcde.org or call the district's transportation hotline at 423-498-7373.

More than 60 schools have designated attendance zones, but about 14 Hamilton County schools are magnet schools. This year, 20 Future Ready institutes launching at Hamilton County high schools also have spots open for out-of-zone students.

5. Ensure your child's vaccination records are updated.

Children enrolling in Tennessee child care facilities or schools for the first time and all rising seventh-graders must provide a state immunization certificate before classes start as proof they've received required immunizations. Health officials advise parents to ensure their child's records are complete to avoid last-minute scrambles.

All required vaccines are available at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department on a walk-in basis. Many vaccines are covered through health insurance, and income-based programs are available for the underinsured and uninsured. For complete information about the state's immunization requirements, visit www.tn.gov/health/ or talk to your school administrators.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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