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Safety first as new school year begins

By Staff | Aug 10, 2023

School safety has been redefined.

Yes, the traditional reminders as little feet hit the streets are still current but school districts and law enforcement agencies across the country have stepped up security in a world where locked doors and campus fences — almost unheard of just a generation ago — are no longer enough.

In its back-to-school message to parents this week, the School District of Lee County emphasized a pair of initiatives designed to keep campuses safer from those with ill intent.

The district has implemented its Guardian Program which allows the placement of trained, uniformed, armed employees within Lee County Schools as a “force multiplier” in addition to School Resource Officers, long a standard on-campus presence.

The district partnered with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, which oversaw and provided the training, to make this new-to-Florida program happen.

The district has also rolled out OPENGATE, a weapons detection system to be installed in every school. All students and visitors will undergo a virtual search for possible weapons and other items not allowed on campus.

Too much?

We’d like to think so — a school employee never having to make an armed response, a weapon never brought on campus is not only the scenario the district and local law enforcement intend, it is exactly the one we all want as well.

Back to the traditional, what we, as parents, as residents can do.

AAA – The Auto Club Group, released its annual School’s Open Drive Carefully campaign this week.

The release offers the following tips for drivers and they are well worth a review as school begins:

• Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

• Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

• Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.

• Stop for buses. Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. The only exception is on a divided highway with a raised divider.

• Share the road with bicyclists. Children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least 3 feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist.

• Talk to your teen. Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

AAA also provides back-to-school safety reminders for bicyclists and students.

These additional tips from AAA may be found below.

Take care.

Be aware.

May the 2023-24 school year be the best one yet for every Lee County student.

–Breeze editorial

AAA back-to-school safety reminders for bicyclists and students

For bicyclists

• Wear a helmet and neon or bright colored clothes.

• Ride in the same direction as traffic and stay as far to the right as possible. Use bike lanes when you can.

• Do not wear headphones so you can detect approaching traffic.

• Cross the street at intersections. Do not pull into the roadway from between parked cars.

For students at the bus stop

• Arrive at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

• Stay five steps away from the curb.

• Be alert and remove headphones so you can hear oncoming traffic.

• Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver signals for you to board.