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It's back-to-school time; 7 new things this year

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Tuesday is the first day of school for the majority of students in Minnesota. Although a few dozen of the state's 339 school districts began classes a week ago, most everyone else starts school the day after Labor Day.

There are some 900,ooo K-12 students who attend public or private schools in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

While they were off enjoying their summer vacations, their school leaders were putting the finishing touches on some new initiatives required by the state. We also saw quite a few stories of interest to school kids and their parents. So, in honor of the first day of school, here's a list for you to review.

Back-to-school costs

New national numbers indicate families will spend an average of $670 this year on supplies for children in grades K through 12. That’s up 22 percent from five years ago, according to the National Retail Federation, double the rate of inflation over the same period.

New immunization rules

The new rules now mandate certain immunizations for children participating in early childhood education programs. They were not covered under the previous rules. There are also a few changes to the current list of immunizations.-

Anti-bullying law

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act requires districts to track and investigate cases of bullying, and also requires schools to offer training to staff in how to prevent bullying. The legislation also further defines bullying. It notes, in part, that bullying causes physical harm or fear of physical harm and “constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

All-day kindergarten

Students can attend all-day kindergarten for no extra cost due to a law that was passed in 2013. Previously, parents in some districts had to pay an extra fee to send their children to all-day kindergarten. School districts have been preparing by juggling classroom space and staffing assignments.

Testing

Taking the ACT college admission test will now be a graduation requirement for all Minnesota students, with 11th graders required to take the test this coming school year, according to KSTP. In the past, students had to pass a different exit exam in order to graduate, but that test isn't recognized by colleges. The ACT replaces the old exam.

Teacher Evaluations

In 2011, lawmakers revamped Minnesota's teacher evaluation law. Under the old system, some teachers went a decade or longer without receiving proper feedback, according to KSTP. Under the new law, new teachers will be given formal evaluations each year for three years.

Nutrition changes

New nutritional standards take effect this fall which call for less sodium and more whole grains and fruits and vegetables. The requirements, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also call for healthier snacks and drinks in school vending machines and snack bars.

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