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Editorial: Keep school safety in mind

Another school year is here and the return of students to their classrooms is getting widespread attention.

For example, Gov. Scott Walker joined State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and local officials in welcoming the opening of the new term. Walker wants the public to know the 2013-15 biennial budget invests $380 million in new state funds to public education and $2.8 million to expand the PALS reading screener. Reading is a fundamental skill, Walker said, and it’s vital children learn to read by the third grade so they can read to learn from then on.

The state’s new school accountability system is also being officially adopted, he said. Report cards measure achievement and growth, as well as college and career readiness, among other factors. These report cards are an important tool for parents, teachers and administrators to make informed decisions and know how schools are performing.

And for instance, the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) in a recent survey found teachers spend on average $485 of their own money to directly assist students. Nationwide, 80 percent of teachers spend their own money to help students get the supplies they need, but their families can’t afford.

Meantime, staff members at schools watch to make sure no student goes hungry. They work together to provide for those who cannot afford or don’t come to school with lunch. A survey by a national group, Share Our Strength, found teachers spend almost $40 a month on food or snacks for students during the school year.

Wisconsin has 426 public school districts, with a total of almost 2,300 schools. Many communities have programs to help kids from low-income families get their back-to-school basics. Ones like the “Teacher’s Closet” are where local businesses donate school supplies to help out families that can’t afford school shoes or pencils or things.

These programs are commendable. However, the school population, parents and others mustn’t lose sight of safety. It’s time to take a look at routines and procedures so everyone can enjoy a safe year of school.

Drivers will have to be especially alert as young people are moving around on foot or in buses both before and after school. Also, be alert for student safety patrols at intersections. A reminder to drivers: if a school bus has red lights flashing, traffic must come to a stop—that means traffic in both directions. Flashing amber lights don’t require a stop, but it is still important to proceed with caution when that situation arises.

Remember, though, not all students are bused. Many walk to school or ride bikes. Students must take it upon themselves to follow good safety procedures, but it is up to all drivers to take extra care when students are going to and from school—always expect the unexpected!

Let’s hope it’s another productive school year and let’s send best wishes to local students, staff and teachers to learn safely together.