Vail Valley Voices: Think safety as school returns | VailDaily.com
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Vail Valley Voices: Think safety as school returns

Melanie McMichael
Vail, CO, Colorado

Students, staff, parents and community members: welcome back to the 2012-13 school year!

The first day of school for middle and high school students is on Wednesday, Aug. 22, while elementary school students start on Friday, Aug. 24, after two days of testing on the 22nd and 23rd.

On any given day this school year, approximately 3,419 students will be walking or riding bikes to and from school, which is nearly 735 more students than in years past.

This means motorists will need to be more alert than ever and take necessary precautions when driving to and from work. This also means that students, staff, families and community members must collectively educate one another on how to get to and from school as safely as possible.

As part of the recent budget cuts, bus stops have been consolidated throughout the entire district in order to run the routes more efficiently.

Though many of our towns and families are feeling the impact of these transportation route changes, the heaviest hit areas are the Eagle-Vail neighborhood south of Highway 6, the mountain side of Eagle River Village Trailer Park in Edwards and the entire Eagle Ranch neighborhood.

Many of the new pickup and drop-off locations have been moved to a central neighborhood park or bus stop, which means more and more students will be at one particular location than ever before.

New this year: students will receive official bus passes during the first few days of school. Parents should also be aware that notes will not be accepted for students to ride any other bus than the one they are designated to ride.

Please take into consideration the following helpful safety tips for students, parents and community members:

Students who are walking to school:

• Parents need to ensure that their students know the appropriate pathway to walk to and from school.

• Students should be trained on proper use of crosswalks and reminded how to cross a street properly.

• Walking your students’ path one to two days prior to school is recommended so that you see what needs to be taught about safe walking or biking, and to address any safety issues.

Students who are riding their bikes to school:

• Be sure you walk your bikes across crosswalks.

Parents who are driving their students to school:

• Please remember that it is state law that you must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

• For those choosing to drive their students, most schools have a traffic plan for the school year. Contact your schools office to see what their traffic plan is and follow it for your and all student’s safety.

• Be sure to stay out of the bus loops, as there are still bus routes that need to drop students.

• To avoid traffic chaos, plan a drop-off and pickup area a few blocks from school and out of the traffic pattern so that your student still gets the benefit of walking and you can avoid the traffic gridlock.

• Watch for younger students that may step out from between parked vehicles. Even if they see you, they may still walk out into the street not realizing that your vehicle is moving due to under-developed depth perception.

Motorists:

• Please remember that it is state law that you must stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

• Always stop for the bus. Whether on a city street, highway or county road, and regardless of the speed limit and the number of lanes, motorists must stop when approaching a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing.

• In the mornings, plan to avoid school areas from 7:45 to 8 a.m. and from 8:15 to 8:30 a.m. Elementary schools get out at 2:50 p.m., middle schools release at 3:50 p.m. and high schools get out around 3:15 p.m., so please try and avoid school areas at those times as well.

Cyclists:

• Please stop when you come upon a bus with its red lights activated. This is for your own safety, as well as our students.

More walking and biking safety tips are available at http://www.walksafe.us and http://www.saferoutesinfo.org. Exact bus stop times are readily available at http://www.eagleschools.net.

For those without access to the Internet, please call Donna Jo Long at 970-328-2744 or Lark Masten at 970-328-2873. Para Espanol, Tirza Tarango a 970-328-2743.

The dispatch number during route hours is 970-328-2570.

With a little patience and practicing of good safety rules of thumb, everyone can help make this transition to our new transportation a reality as smooth as possible for our students, families and fellow motorists.

I hope everyone has a safe and fabulous school year!

Melanie McMichael is the director of transportation for the Eagle County School District.


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