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Students head back to school Monday

By Staff | Aug 21, 2010

An estimated 80,000 students and 5,000 teachers will descend upon Lee County schools Monday morning, kicking off the school year, and, at the very least, a couple of really crazy days.
School, city and law enforcement officials are urging all kinds of things this coming week, from heightened road awareness and safety to proper time management.
But no matter what the fine print may be, the message is clear: parents, students and teachers need to be prepared for anything when those first period bells ring on Monday.
“Patience. Everyone needs to have patience,” said Joe Donzelli, spokesman for the Lee County School District. “That first day is all about patience.”
Donzelli said that the first day of school is always flush with parents picking up and dropping of their kids.
Some of those parents, Donzelli said, will undoubtedly be new to pick up/drop off procedures, and the queue, while already busy, could become even more hectic.
“Not everyone is going to be familiar with the procedures … that’s why you have to have patience,” Donzelli added.
Picking up and dropping off is but one of many things that parents and children need to know, especially for those parents who are new to a school.
Challenger Middle School Principal Teri Cannady is urging all her students and their parents to attend their open house this weekend for that very reason.
Challenger is one of six Cape Coral schools hosting open houses on Saturday.
Cannady said the open house at Challenger Middle will give students and their parents the chance to explore the school, get their bearings, find classes, and learn all the school’s procedures first hand.
“It not only remembering what we did last year, because my incoming parents don’t know what those procedures are. That’s one of the things we try to address with the open house,” Cannady said. “It gives us a chance to guide the parents and students before the first day of school.”
The Lee County Sheriff’s office, along with municipal law enforcement agencies like the Cape Coral Police Department, will be on high alert Monday, if not the entire week, making sure that students and parents are safe on the roads.
The LCSO is hoping parents will take the time to carefully review their child’s route to school, and to walk with their kids to school if it’s their first time.
For students on bikes, LCSO suggests wearing bright clothes to increase their visibility, to walk their bikes through intersections, and, of course, to wear a helmet.
For students who will ride the bus, tips include finding a safe place to wait for the bus away from traffic, to be aware of your surroundings, to remain in their seats when they finally do board the vehicle.
While not a complete list of the warnings LCSO is trying to educate the public about for the first day of school, they are, more then anything else, hoping that people use common sense.
LCSO spokesman John Sheehan said the roads were going to be “insane” in the morning and afternoon hours, but the Sheriff’s Office is working other agencies to ensure things go smoothly.
Sheehan said the first few days of the new school year are always a little wild, but become less chaotic as the week goes along.
“It’s something that happens every year so we’re prepared, but the first week is going to take some time to smooth out,” Sheehan said. “If you live up north it’s kind of like the first snowfall because it takes a while to get acclimated to the conditions again. But this is something we take seriously and it something we’re looking forward to.”
Donzelli said parents and students need to manage their time wisely, especially during the first days of a new school year.
He compared the time management to catching a plane at the airport; don’t arrive too early or too late.
He said if a student’s first period bell is at 8 a.m., then plan on arriving by 7:45 a.m. Planning ahead will save time in the long run, he said, especially for those who don’t have a child in school.
“We have to realize that you don’t have to have a student to be impacted by the first day of school,” Donzelli said. “Everyone in the community needs to take extra time to get to work. They need to slow down and be very cautious.”
Cape Coral’s police officers and firefighters are also asking people slow down, and use caution and common sense on Monday.
Cape firefighters will be visible and in uniform at high traffic areas and near school zones, specifically at Trafalgar and Skyline, Del Prado and Southeast 6th St, Del Prado and Diplomat Parkway, and Coronado and Vincennes Boulevard.
Cape police plan on increasing patrols around bus stops and school zones, especially during those dreaded pick-up and drop-off times.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron said Cape police officers will enforce driver safety laws around school buses and cross walks.
“They’ll be making sure cars aren’t zipping by school buses as they pick up and drop off students,” Barron said.
She added that drivers must be aware of their surroundings will have to adjust their driving habits.
“You have to change you driving habits when school is back in session, especially around the school zones,” Barron said. “Some kids aren’t very tall, and it doesn’t take much to have them hidden by a pole or vehicle or something like that.”
With the right amount of planning, patience, and safety, local officials are saying that the first day of 2010 – 2011 school year will not only be successful, but will set the table for the entire year.
Whether you have a child who will be in class Monday, or you’re just another motorist making their way to work, Donzelli said it will all go smoothly if people simply prepare.
“I hope everyone plans accordingly,” Donzelli said.