NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Thousands of students in the Dallas Independent School District headed back to class today — some in new modes of transportation and some to schools with new distinctions.

The start of a new school year meant a big change for the DISD. For the first time in years, the district is in charge of its own bus transportation.

Hundreds of new drivers are on the job at the DISD bus barn. The summer was spent training those drivers, now that the district is operating its own fleet.

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DISD school bus (credit: CBS 11 News)

Those getting behind the wheel received safety and procedural training and were out practicing their routes just last week.

New signage on the buses now reads Dallas ISD and not Dallas County Schools. The change comes after voters dissolved the Dallas County Schools bus agency last year.

The DISD decided to hire it’s own drivers rather than contract with another company, that meant the district student transportation department grew from four employees to more than 1,000.

The new Dallas ISD buses delivered students to more than 220 schools today.

In Cockrell Hill, there were big hugs and brave faces for the Pre-K through 5th graders at L. O. Donald Elementary School.

But moms and dads felt they were placing their kids in good hands.

Kindergartner Rose Arellano could barely wait. “To meet my new teacher,” she said. Her mother, Angelica Arellano, explained, “We’ve been preparing for over a month. She’s excited.”

While the DISD just received it’s highest rating to date a “B” on the Texas Education Agency’s state report card… Donald Elementary received an “A”.

The campus is the only non-magnet school in district where all 5th graders passed the math STAAR exam this past year and 96-percent of the student body passed in reading.

DISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said, “Our early learning program that we started several years ago is now paying dividends for the students being able to read on grade level.”

Donald Principal Kathryn Carter said teacher turnover is almost zero. “We’re outscoring some of the magnets [schools] and we’re very proud of that and our kids are very proud of that.”

With the start of the new school year L. O. Donald reopens as a Dallas ISD Innovation school – a leadership academy.

The distinction isn’t lost on the young students. “I’m going to become a leader,” said 5th grader Alana Wilkins, “which is going to help the rest of the school become leaders.”