ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- On the first day back to school, children flowed into Julington Creek Elementary, brought in on buses, dropped off by their parents and ushered in by the teachers who will guide them for the 2013-2014 school year.
The beginning of the day was a quiet but happy occasion, with smiles spread across many faces. The summer is over.
St. Johns County Schools has another reason to celebrate: they're coming off a school year in which they were awarded an "A" grade for the 10th straight year. They also were one of seven schools nationwide to receive the Exemplary School Safety Award, following their heralded response to the Connecticut school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary last December.
The school district ran a safety audit that checked for deficiencies in the perimeters of schools. They also make sure school construction includes just one point of entry, screen any visitors to the school and work closely with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Despite the summer "off," administrators said teachers met throughout the summer months to plan for the upcoming school year.
[Special Coverage: Back to school photo gallery
The reputation of the school system, including its academic and safety awards, was enough for one family to move to St. Johns County specifically for the school system.
"I'm really excited about it," said Melissa Herrlinger, who moved here from Oregon with her daughter entering the third grade. "My friends who live down here talked about how good it is. It's a big issue."
Parents who have questions are welcome to call their child's school.