SIDNEY — Preparing your child for the first day of school involves more than the three R’s — reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. It also means getting them to school safely and back home again.
And if the child walks to school, said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, there are more lessons to be taught by the parent.
“First,” said Lenhart during his weekly interview, “choose a safe route for your child to walk to school. Try as much as possible to chose routes where the child will be walking on sidewalks.
“Figure out what crosswalks the child will be using when crossing the street,” he said. “Try to stay away from busy streets as much as possible. Avoid streets where there is construction going on.”
Parents should walk the route with the child several times before allowing the child to walk it by himself or herself, said Lenhart.
“You should also identify safe houses along the route where the child can stop if something happens,” said Lenhart. “Those houses could be family members such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent, or a friend.
“If there’s bad weather or someone tries to stop and talk to them, the child will know they can go to that house and be safe,” he said.
If the parent can’t walk the child to school everyday, they should try to find a friend so they can walk to school together.
Other safety tips Lenhart shared include:
• Always cross the street in the crosswalk of the intersection.
• Always look both ways before stepping out into the street.
• Walk with a buddy. Walk with parents or siblings to school.
• Make sure your child knows how to respond if a stranger approaches them. “The child souldn’t respond to a stranger,” he said. “And if someone calls to them from a car, and they don’t know the person, they should never go near the car.”
• If the child has a cellphone, make sure they know who to call 911 if there is an emergency. “Make sure they know how to use it correctly as they are walking to and from school. They shouldn’t use their cellphones during the school day. If they do have a problem, they should call their family or a friend for help.”
While the snow is a few months away, the weather can cause hazards for children who walk to school. There are unplowed sidewalks in which they’ll have to walk. Snow and ice can cause them problems as they walk.
“And watch out for the snowplows,” said Lenhart.
During rain storms, walkers should not go near storm drains.
“The water moving down the street into the storm drains can move fast,” said Lenhart. “Sometimes a child can’t get away from the fast moving water and they get into the storm drains.”
When walking, the child should walk against the flow of traffic even if they are walking on a sidewalk, said Lenhart.
“You can see the traffic as it’s coming at you,” said Lenhart. “If a vehicle starts weaving, you can get away from it.”
If your child rides the bus, there are also guidelines to safely getting on and off the bus at the designated bus stop, said Lenhart.
“The child should stay 6 feet away from the curb until the bus stops,” said Lenhart.
Once the driver opens the door, the students should enter the bus one at a time.
“A lot of buses today have seat belts,” said Lenhart. “If the bus has them, the students should buckle up.”
If the child has to cross the street to get on or after they get off the bus, they should make sure they are 10 feet in front of the bus so the bus driver can see them at all times.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.