The start of the academic year at Glendale schools this week generated the usual excitement about new friends and new teachers. But it also brought with it the heavy traffic that plagues school sites during morning drop-off and afternoon pickup times.
“In the beginning, school is new,” said Glendale Police Sgt. Mike Glassick. “There are first-time students, first-time parents. We want them to follow the rules of the road.”
In an effort to ease staff, parents and students into a safe routine, Glendale Police will deploy motor officers at every Glendale Unified campus for the first four weeks of the school year, officials said.
“They identify the problems in their respective districts, and they will go to the school in the morning and the afternoon,” Glassick said.
On Friday, a cadre of motor officers was on hand to escort dozens of R.D. White Elementary School students and parents to campus, a monthly event that has been dubbed the “walking school bus.” Participants assembled at four “stops,” each natural gathering points in the neighborhood around the school, and then proceeded together. Adult volunteers donned neon-orange reflector vests and served as front and rear “bumpers.”
The walking school bus is one component of R.D. White’s Safe Routes to School program, designed to reduce traffic and promote pedestrian safety at the site. It also promotes healthy habits and creates as sense of community, participants said.
“It is a great way to support our kids, and show that walking is good and eating health is good,” said Elizabeth Barnes as she walked her son Garrett to kindergarten Friday.
Parent volunteers at R.D. White are spearheading district-wide participation in International Walk to School Day on Oct. 5.
“The linkage of parents, the volunteer opportunity they have created, is tremendous,” said Glendale school board President Joylene Wagner. “People get to know each other, they get to know the kids.”
Officials said they would like to see the program at R.D. White replicated at other sites in order to reduce traffic congestion around Glendale Unified schools.
Common examples of dangerous behavior that officers see at schools include parents dropping children off on the opposite side of the street and having them cross without using a crosswalk, Glassick said.
Double parking and distracted driving also are major problems, he added.
“I have seen parents fixing their hair, fixing their makeup in their cars,” Glassick said.
And cell phones behind the wheel are ubiquitous and dangerous, he said.
“Everyone has got cell phones,” Glassick said. “We are all texting or receiving calls and making calls. [You] really, really need to be conscious of putting that device away, especially around the schools.”