Read Superintendent of Schools Dr. Margaret Smith's open letter to students and parents on the start of a new school year, then brush up on back-to-school safety tips.
COMPILED BY THE OBSERVER STAFF
An open letter, from Superintendent Smith
Welcome to the beginning of a new school year! It is a time to refresh and renew our efforts to prepare Volusia students for their journey to a successful future. We have high expectations for our schools and students and are dedicated to working with our parents and community to help students reach their potential.
Our guiding theme this year is: Volusia County Schools — Beacon of Excellence. We are looking forward to a challenging and successful 2012-2013 school year with a laser focus on student learning and achievement and a strong commitment to continuing professional growth for all teachers, administrators and support staff.
Preparing students for the 21st Century requires change and a new and open mindset. In response to increased rigor in curriculum standards and assessments, our school district is undergoing a major restructuring of our instructional practices that will have a positive impact on schools and student learning. In addition, there are many new technology tools available for teachers, students and parents that support teaching and learning.
We are asking our parents and community members to join us in partnering to make a meaningful difference for each and every one of our students. With the support and involvement of all of us, we will have a productive and positive school year.
Yours in education,
Margaret A. Smith, D. Ed.
Volusia County Schools
With more than 50 students injured on their way to or from campus in the past two school years — more than half of which were middle-school age — Voluisa County Sheriff Ben Johnson and Volusia County School Superintendent Dr. Margaret Smith teamed up to issue back-to-school safety reminders.
Parents and school children won’t encounter any changes in traffic patterns, speed limits or crossing guard locations this school year; however, deputies will be increasing enforcement efforts this week, with particular emphasis on speeding and seat belt violations.
Smith and Johnson’s safety tips are listed as follows:
- If you drive your children to school, drop them off and pick them up as close to the school as possible. If the school has a drop-off area, be sure to use it.
- Drive defensively. Always anticipate the possibility that a small child may dart in front of your vehicle. Be prepared to stop at all times.
- Leave a few minutes early and plan for extra drive time to get to your destination.
- Slow down and watch out for school zones and children walking or biking to school or congregating near bus stops. Also, be alert for student drivers.
- Obey all posted speed limits.
- Be especially careful in areas with parked vehicles on the side of the road. Children crossing between vehicles may be difficult to see
- Remember that buses stop frequently. It’s not only dangerous to students, but it’s against the law to pass a school bus while it’s stopped on the roadway picking up or dropping off students. And this applies to traffic going in both directions — unless the road is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide.
- When turning at an intersection, be sure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists.
- If your child is walking to school or a bus stop, plan a safe route and make sure your child knows the route and can navigate it safely. Choose the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. If a school crossing guard is available, be sure that your child crosses at that location. If your child is young or is walking to a new school, walk the route with them beforehand and continue to walk with them for the first week until they’re comfortable with the route.
For students who ride the bus
- Stay out of the street while waiting for the bus.
- Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and the doors open before approaching the bus from the curb.
- Make sure you remain in clear view of the bus driver. Never walk behind the bus.
- Look both ways before crossing the street to get on the bus.
- After getting off the bus, look both ways and then move immediately onto the sidewalk and out of traffic.
- For bike riders, wear a properly-fitted helmet at all times. Research shows that this simple act can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Also, riders should use a bike that’s the right size for them and make sure that they don’t have any loose clothing, drawstrings or shoelaces.
- Bike riders should ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic, and use appropriate hand signals. Bicyclists also should respect traffic lights and stop signs.
- Walk or bike with a friend. It’s safer that way.
- Walk on sidewalks where available.
- Always cross at intersections.
- Both bikers and walkers should wear bright clothing to make them more visible to drivers.
- To avoid distractions, bikers and walkers shouldn’t use a cell phone or headphones.