Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
CHEROKEE COUNTY —
From “meet the teacher” events to convocations and rallies designed to bolster school spirit, it can only mean one thing: The start of school is around the corner.
While The Brook Hill School program kicks off today, and Jacksonville Christian School and Jacksonville College programs begin Thursday, other area schools start the fall semester next week.
JISD, Rusk, Alto, Bullard, New Summerfield, Troup and Wells students all begin classes on Aug. 26, with a scheduled Labor Day holiday on Sept. 2.
JIST Transportation Director Mark Turney reminded residents that school buses will be running their routes again, as they transport students to and from school, pointing out that “safety is our highest priority, but we will need the help of our fellow drivers to ensure the safe transport of our kids.”
He advised that drivers be alert, and to watch for flashing signal lights on the vehicles – yellow signifies that a vehicle slowing down to make a stop, while red means the bus is stationary.
By law, a driver must stop for a bus when the red lights are flashing, or be subject to a fine of up to $1,000, Turney said.
He asked that drivers be aware that children may be crossing the road to get to their destination, and may not be aware of oncoming traffic.
Turney also reminded drivers that because buses are larger than average vehicles, they “will take up more room on the road … so when you meet them, please allow them plenty of space.”
A school bus also travels more slowly because of frequent starts and stops, follows a consistent route and time schedule and are required to stop at all railroad crossings, he said, asking drivers to be mindful of these things.
“You may want to change your morning travel a little to decrease your chance of meeting a bus,” he advised.
Jacksonville Police Sgt. Jason Price agreed.
“If you're not dropping off or picking up students, just be patient with those who are – leave a little bit early (because) traffic will be heavier in the mornings (when school is back in session), that goes without saying,” he said. “Just use more caution, because there are going to be more vehicles on the road.”
Officers throughout the county will be enforcing laws in and around school zones to help keep students and the people driving them to class safe.
Every school zone is designated with either a flashing yellow light or a posted speed limit that indicates when that zone is an active school zone, Sgt. Price said.
“So, a driver has to pay attention to that posted sign,” which has speeds ranging from 20 mph to 35 mph, he said.
“At the point where that sign is (or lights are) located, that is where the speed limit starts, so (the vehicle's) operator needs to be going that speed when they cross into that zone,” Sgt. Price said, adding that fines vary, according to how much a driver has gone over the speed limit in a school zone.
Fines also are assessed for unauthorized use of cell phones in a school zone – cell phone use is prohibited in an active school zone, he said.
“So a person can get violations for two offenses: Speeding and the unauthorized use of a cell phone,” he said. “Officers will be enforcing these, so we ask for compliance (from the public).”
Sgt. Price also reminded drivers to be aware that not all school crossings have guards, even though they are marked.
“Many of our local school zones are on a highway, which is particularly hazardous because of traffic accustomed to traveling at a higher rate of speed,” he said. “The middle school, Nichols Intermediate, West Side Elementary, the new Joe Wright school – these are all 55 mph zones (that now have traffic) slowing down. Drivers need to be mindful of the lights and signs that are posting those school zones.”