With summer coming to a close, children and their parents are looking forward to the beginning of the new school year. Back to school shopping, the prospect of seeing friends and making new ones, and the excitement of meeting a new teacher are all on the forefront of our children’s minds; however, as parents, the following discussions are important to have with our children before they enter the classroom in September.
If your child walks to school, plan out a route before school starts and take a practice walk with your child to make sure that they are comfortable walking to school. Students should be walking with a friend, family member, or in a group for safety. Reiterate to your children not to speak with strangers or accept rides from anyone unless instructed by their parents.
If your child is taking the bus, he/she should never stand in the street or on the curb while waiting for the bus, but instead should wait on the sidewalk. Only when the bus comes to a full stop and the door opens should students board the bus and go directly to their seat and buckle their seat belt. When arriving at school or at the bus stop at the end of the day, students must wait for the bus to make a full stop before getting out of their seat and proceed slowly to the front of the bus for discharge. Please instruct your children to cross the street in front of the bus and look at the driver to ensure it is safe to cross.
Parents, as drivers it is our responsibility to be alert. Always keep an eye out for children walking or biking to school. As drivers we will be sharing the roads with school buses, cars and pedestrians and should always be aware of our surroundings.
New Jersey law requires that drivers stop at least 10 feet away from a school bus when the lights are flashing, indicating that children are getting on or off the bus. Passing the bus during these times is prohibited and cars are to proceed only once the bus no longer has its lights flashing.
Drivers must also be aware of designated school zones and the speed limits posted. You must adhere to the directions of the crossing guards who are there to protect our children.
Finally, students do not only face safety concerns on their way to and from school, but within the classroom and hallways, as well. Young people today are subject to many pressures in school, including peer pressure and bullying from fellow students, or pressure on themselves to do well. As parents, we also need to reiterate to our children that they can come to us with anything that is concerning to them.
As freeholder director of Middlesex County, I have the privilege to speak with students of all ages. I often urge our students to not let peer pressure govern their decisions. My goal is to motivate the students to become more involved in their communities through civic and school programs which will help them achieve confidence to succeed in whatever goals they set for themselves.
Whether your child is entering kindergarten, middle or high school, speaking with them about these topics will ensure that they can have an easier and safer transition into a new school year.
Ronald G. Rios is the director of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group.