Back-to-school to-do list: Do you know how you’re getting to school and home again?

This morning, we looked up on the Bus Stop Utility Finder on the Austin ISD website to find my son’s school bus schedule. Egad! We’re losing seven minutes this year.

Travis Bradley and Julian Gonzalez run for the bus. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We also looked on their school websites to figure out what time school starts because it actually varies by school. Shockingly, we’re still uncertain what time the middle-schooler starts because this year’s bell schedule hasn’t been posted. I’m hopeful they will let us know, soon. The high-schooler, though, gets 15 extra minutes in the morning (not really because of the bus).

Have you done the same?

Consider these things when it comes to how and when your child is getting to and from school:

Riding the bus? Find out what time and where the bus stops. Don’t rely on last year’s information. Even if it’s been the same for five years, this could be the year it’s not. (Usually schools send out this information about a week before. You also can look online at your district’s website). If your school district uses an app like “Where’s the Bus?” figure out how to download and use it.

Driving the kids? Do you need to arrange a car pool? Do you know how the school drop-off line flows at your school? Are your children prepared to go through that line, or do they need you to walk them in?

Walking or riding a bike to school? Have you practiced it? Do they know the route and what time they need to leave? Do they have a friend or two to join them? Will you be going with them or meeting them halfway, or will they be going it alone? If so, do they have a key to the home?

Figure out alternate plans. The bus is late, then what? They miss the bus, then what? The carpool falls apart, then what? You have one sick kid with bodily fluids pouring out of them, but the other one needs to get to school, or you’re sick … what happens then? It’s raining and they were supposed to walk, will you give them a ride?

Remember, starting Wednesday, when the first group of school districts head back to school, traffic in Central Texas is going to get interesting as we all adjust. Be on the lookout for kids in the street in and around school zones and in and around neighborhoods.

Please don’t be the driver in this video:

The American Academy of Pediatrics offer these safety tips:

School Bus

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required. Encourage your child to actually practice how to cross the street several times prior to the first day of school.
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts). See Where We Stand: Safety Restraints on the School Bus for more information.
  • Check on the school’s policy regarding food on the bus. Eating on the bus can present a problem for students with allergy and also lead to infestations of insects and vermin on the vehicles.
  • If your child has a chronic condition that could result in an emergency on the bus, make sure you work with the school nurse or other school health personnel to have a bus emergency plan, if possibly, prior to the first day of class

Car

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age- and size-appropriate car seator booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations even when using hands-free devices or speakerphone, texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction.. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. Click here for a sample parent-teen driver agreement.

Bike

  • Practice the bike route to school before the first day of school to make sure your child can manage it.
  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic and ride in bike lanes if they are present.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

Walking to School

  • Children are generally ready to start walking to school at 9 to 11 years of age.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision. If the route home requires crossing busier streets than your child can reasonably do safely, have an adult, older friend or sibling escort them home.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them or have another adult walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely. If your child will need to cross a street on the way to school, practice safe street crossing with them before the start of school.
  • Bright-colored clothing or a visibility device, like a vest or armband with reflectors, will make your child more visible to drivers.

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