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Let’s be safe as our kids head back to class

The 2016-17 school year starts next Tuesday at New Hampton Community Schools and at several area school districts.A day later, St. Joseph Community School will hold its first day of classes.That’s good news for parents who are tired of hearing “I’m bored” and “there’s nothing to do,” two common refrains that are sung as late summer begins.But it also means that around 8 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. each day, it’s going to get a little more hectic around New Hampton High School, St. Joseph Community School and the downtown elementary and middle school complex.Most kids, loathe though they may be to admit it, are excited for the school year to start, although the outward enthusiasm tends to ebb the older they get.And they’ll definitely be excited to get out of school at the end of the day, too. That means, however, they may not look both ways or, if they do, somehow miss the car driving down the road.So let’s be careful out there next week. Drive a tad slower, be a lot more alert and know that a few seconds isn’t a matter of life and death.And while we’re at it, let’s all follow the rules when it comes to school bus safety, like the following from the Iowa Department of Transportation:•  Two-lane road and the school bus is displaying flashing yellow lights: Flashing yellow lights are an indication that the bus is going to stop. It is illegal to pass a school bus from behind when yellow lights are flashing.When approaching a school bus traveling in the opposite direction, a driver must slow the vehicle to 20 miles per hour or less when yellow lights are seen, and be prepared to stop when the stop arm is extended and red lights flash.•  Two-lane road and the school bus is displaying flashing red lights and an extended stop arm: The bus is letting passengers on or off. It is illegal to pass a school bus from behind or from the opposite travel direction under these conditions.A driver must come to a complete stop at least 15 feet from the bus and remain stopped until the vehicle's flashing red lights deactivate and the stop arm is retracted. At all times, drivers should remain alert for pedestrians.•  Roadway with two or more lanes in each direction: A driver must stop when approaching the school bus from behind when yellow or red lights flash. However, under these roadway conditions, drivers need not stop when meeting a school bus traveling in the opposite direction.School bus drivers are not permitted to let passengers on or off the bus in situations where they must cross multiple lanes of traffic.So, let’s have a safe year, and while we’re at it, let’s remember to thank those bus drivers who make sure our children get to and from school safely.As the cartoon on this page points out, driving a school bus can be a stressful affair, but we’re lucky here in Northeast Iowa to have a bunch of caring and dedicated men and women who admirably perform a difficult job day in and day out.And finally, let’s remember that those crossing guards who man the crosswalks are just doing their jobs to keep children safe when they stop you. The few seconds you need to wait, trust us, won’t change the world.

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