By Michelle Floyd
COVINGTON - With school starting again Monday, school system and Sheriff's Office officials are urging drivers to use caution in neighborhoods and school zones.
"Traffic is going to be bad Monday," said Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Charles Ledford.
Although all school zones will be heavy with traffic during pick up and drop off times, he said Newton County drivers should expect especially heavy delays at South Salem Elementary and Liberty Middle schools on Salem Road and the new Live Oak Elementary on Kirkland Road. He also said the area of Jack Neely Road and Fairview Road with Clements Middle and Fairview Elementary schools may be heavy since they have limited bus transportation.
"Everybody needs to be careful because there's going to be a lot of confusion with the new schools and new school zones," Ledford said.
Sherri Viniard, director of public relations at the Newton County School System, advised that parents or those who plan to drop off or pick up students should visit the school before the first day to familiarize themselves with traffic patterns and any changes.
"The car rider traffic or parking procedures may be different," she said. "Every year we have someone who will pull into the bus lane instead of the car rider lane on the first day of school, and it impedes the flow of traffic."
Some schools also may prefer parents of younger children to walk in their children to the school on the first day, rather than drop them off, but they need to park in the appropriate areas.
"We've actually had parents park in the car rider line and walk their kids in, and that backs up traffic," Viniard said.
During the school year, some schools also may not let parents check out students after a certain time due to the strain on already heavy traffic.
Ledford said schools will have staff helping move along parents and students, and at least one officer will be stationed at each school, but traffic tends to be heavy for the first few days of school.
"It usually takes two to three days to get it all worked out," Ledford said. "Usually it smooths out after that. Until then, be careful and be patient."
Adult drivers and students also need to pay attention to buses in neighborhoods and in school zones, officials said.
Chuck Brasher, director of transportation for NCSS, said students and parents should be punctual and patient.
"We advise that children be at the bus stop at least five minutes early and everyone should be prepared for it to be slow for the first few days," he said. "Parents should expect some changes as we always have to adjust routes once school begins.
· When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
· When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
· Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
· Slow down. Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
· Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street with out looking for traffic.
· Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
· When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
· Wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says that it's OK before stepping onto the bus.
· If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
· Use the handrails to avoids falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don't get caught in the handrails or doors.
· Never walk behind the bus.
· Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.
· If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.
· Teach children to follow these common sense practices to make school bus transportation safer.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
SideBar: Georgia Sales Tax Holiday
· When: 12:01 a.m. July 30-midnight Aug. 2
· Where: stores statewide
· More Information: www.dor.ga.gov
· General school supplies up to $20 per item
· Clothing and footwear up to $100 per item
· Single purchase of personal computers and related accessories up to $1,500
· Books that aren't children's books, dictionaries and thesauruses
· Medical supplies
· General clothing accessories
· Rented or leased items
· Action and adventure computer games and software
· Digital cameras