Keene ISD Jose Serrato

Keene Police Department officer Jose Serrato stops traffic in front of Keene Elementary School on Thursday to allow children to cross the street.

School has been back in session for Johnson County students for only a couple of weeks, but some school officials are concerned with how some parents are not following traffic laws around campus when they drop off and pick up students at school. 

Cleburne ISD Community Relations Director Lisa Magers said every campus has procedures and follows the best practices specific to the school when it comes to addressing the safety of students, including arrival and dismissal time.

“This information is provided to parents at the start of each school year,” Magers said. “Several of our campuses utilize teachers and staff as crossing guards to help students safely cross the street, while also assisting with traffic flow and congestion. 

“Students are directed to use the crosswalk rather than walking between parked cars, and parents are encouraged to load and unload students on the same side as the school, rather than across the street. We also appreciate the help of parents in reinforcing safety practices with their students.”

CISD asks drivers to exercise caution in and around the schools throughout the day, especially during arrival and dismissal periods when traffic is more congested and student walkers or bicyclists are added to the mix.

“Drivers should be aware of school zones and the change in posted speed limits during these periods,” she said. “State law prohibits the use of cellphones by motorists while in a school zone. 

“We appreciate the support we receive from Cleburne police officers, who often maintain a presence around our schools during these high traffic periods. Parents and the community are encouraged to contact the school principal if they have a question or concern relating to these procedures.”  

Burleson ISD School Resource Officer R.J. Sherman said it's very important for students to be dropped off and picked up in the designated areas.

"If someone is directing traffic or managing the pick-up or drop-off line, parents need to pay attention to the officer or crossing guard," Sherman said. "Students should pay attention to their surroundings, not walk too close to vehicles or try to cross in front of cars on their own.

"It’s all about safety. It’s important that students and parents focus on safety, listen and look to the officer or crossing guard and be patient."

The district does the following things to help with traffic flow:

• Schools send traffic flow patterns and pick-up/drop-off procedures to parents.

• Cones are sometimes placed to aide parents entering/exiting the traffic pattern.

• Crosswalks are painted to show students where to cross and signage has been added to school zones.

• Crossing guards are placed at many crosswalks.

• Teachers assist with drop-off and pick-up lines and hold kids at certain points until they are instructed to cross in front of cars.

Keene ISD Police Chief Ronny Potts said they evaluated their traffic patterns last week and made some major adjustments so students can be safe. They sent out an instructional video to all the district’s social media pages that include tips and directions for a safe drop off and pick up. 

“We ask all parents to make sure their children are ready to get out of the car when they pull up to the sidewalk,” Potts said. “We also ask that all parents make sure their children are dropped off on the curb-side of the respective school. Thirdly, we ask that all parents be mindful that all parents do not follow these suggestions and be on the double look-out for kids running in front of cars.”

Safety, Potts said, is of the utmost importance when it comes to their students.

“A student must get to us safely before they can ever learn what we have to teach them,” he said. “Ultimately, it is the parent’s responsibility to get their kids to school safely. We ask that they never let their child off in a spot that they feel is unsafe. 

“The traffic pattern we have adjusted this year allows for each and every kid to be dropped off on the curb side of their individual school. We also ask that all drivers on our campuses drive with extreme care any time on school property as kids get excited to be at school or to leave school and do not always pay attention to cars in the roadway.”

Keene Police Chief Emmitt Jackson said he’s been working with Potts and KISD Superintendent Ricky Stephens to identify some of the most congested locations.

“Because the schools are in a two-city block area, we are looking at the best ways for us to get parents dropping off their kids as well as picking them up,” Jackson said. “We are putting our resources out there every morning and afternoon to monitor speeding and any other traffic  issues that may arise so that we can lend a helping hand.”

Jackson said the city has also identified available funds that can only be used for crossing guards.

“They will be able to pay overtime to teachers to man some of those intersections,” he said.

Grandview Police Officer Albert Sanchez, who’s a school resource officer or Grandview ISD, said they have designated areas for parents who are dropping off their students or walking them into the schools in the mornings.

“During those times, parents need to be patient and not be on their cellphones,” Sanchez said. “Parking lots are marked with arrows or traffic cones to help with traffic flow. We also have adults helping with traffic flow.”

He also encourages students not to run around or be on their cellphones when they’re walking across parking lots in case someone drives through it.

“We also encourage vehicles to not drive through the parking lots,” he said. “They need to go through the marked lanes to avoid students.” 

During pick up, Venus Elementary School Principal Lori Box said students are delivered to their car by an adult. 

“Students are kept inside until their name is called, and only then do they go out to have an adult take them to their car,” Box said. “During drop-off in the morning, we also have adults in the drive.

“Most students get out on the walkway side so there is no traffic to cross. If they are in the outside lane, an adult helps them out of the car, and they are escorted to the walkway.”

During bus drop off and pick up, she said students are unloaded and loaded on the sidewalk side by the building and are escorted into the building or walked to their bus at dismissal.

“Again, students remain in the building until their bus is ready to be unloaded/loaded,” she said. “Safety for our students, staff, and parents are of the utmost importance.”  

Before the school year began, Texas Department of Transportation officials encouraged school officials to remind parents about their campuses’ traffic laws and what they should do when they enter the school zone. 

TxDOT’s “Be Safe, Drive Smart, Public Awareness and Education” campaign offers timely back-to-school tips for both drivers and students to help everyone feel safe. The campaign offers tips to children walking or biking to school; parents driving in school zones; and residents sharing the road with school buses. 

Officials give the following tips for children walking or biking to school:

• Always walk on sidewalks whenever they’re available.

• Cross the street at intersections or marked crosswalks. Look left, right and left again before proceeding.

• Always obey crossing guards.

• Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Never assume a driver sees you.

• Look for traffic when stepping off a bus or from behind parked cars.

• Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.

• Don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.

• Follow all traffic rules, signs and signals.

Officials give the following tips for residents driving in school zones:

• Stay alert and put your phone way. Using a handheld electronic device while driving in an active school zone is against the law.

• Always obey school zone speed limit signs. Remember, traffic fines usually double in school zones.

• Drop off and pick up your children in your school’s designated areas, not in the middle of the street.

• Keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops.

• Watch for children who might dart across the street or between vehicles.

Officials give the following tips for drivers sharing the road with buses:

• Never tailgate. Follow at a safe distance, keeping in mind that school buses make frequent stops.

• Stop for flashing red lights or a stop sign on a school bus, regardless of which direction you’re headed. Continue your trip once the bus has moved, the flashing lights stop flashing or the bus driver signals it’s OK to pass.

• Violations can lead to a fine of up to $1,250 for a first offense. 

For more tips, visit txdot.gov

 

Features reporter 

Jessica Pounds 

contributed to this story.

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