The day has come for high hopes and expectations

Today is the day most public school students have been dreading. Today is the start of the new school year.

More than 950,000 students are off to class this morning with officials worried about security, traffic, dropouts and crime. Some 600,000 of the students are in pre-school and primary grades.

The school year is 42 weeks and ends Dec. 16.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública has a budget of some 1.45 trillion colons to pay for the costs of schooling. That is about $2.9 billion. Some will go to scholarships to help about 15,000 students attend school. There also is the cost of infrastructure, salaries, training and transportation.

Some 75,000 students get some kind of subsidy for transportation.

This year the ministry has set up a program to encourage students to identify with their neighborhood school. Targeted especially will be the 50 high schools that have the highest dropout rate.

Traffic police are concerned by the proximity of some schools to major roads. They have encouraged parents with children in such schools to come early.

There also is the matter of the Río Varilla bridge on the Autopista General Cañas. The Ministerio de
Obras Públicas y Transportes says that work there is nearly finished. The job of rebuilding the surface of the bridge has resulted in massive traffic jams since Christmas. Now four lanes are open.

Traffic officials also say that buses carrying students can use the exclusive bus lane on the autopista.

Despite private guards and other security measures, protection is not as extensive as some teachers would like. Some have to spend time checking the backpacks of arriving students. A student in Heredia killed a school director last year with a pistol, and security has been tighter since.

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