The doors of Kent County’s public schools opened once again for the start of a new year this week, with students set to be in classrooms five days a week for the first time since the spring of 2019.

We are thrilled for the return of full in-person education for our students. And based on our trips out to schools Tuesday morning, Sept. 7, our students are thrilled to be back.

We fully support Kent County Public Schools decision to require students and staff to wear masks and we continue to urge everyone eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Both are crucial to ensuring our students do not miss any more classroom instruction because of the ongoing pandemic.

Vaccines and masks are not the end-all of COVID-19 safety precautions, but when combined with additional health safety protocols like proper hygiene including hand-washing, social distancing when possible and regular disinfecting of surfaces and buildings, we all stand a better chance of keeping one another healthy and keeping our children in school.

We talk a lot about the school community because that is what each of our public and private schools represent, a community. They are communities of students, of parents and guardians, of teachers and staff and administrators. Everyone in these communities and in the broader Kent County community has a role to play for our children.

Moving beyond the walls of our schools, we also need to keep an eye on roadway safety, being careful around school buses and watching out for increased pedestrian traffic.

“For the first time in 18 months, Maryland schools are opening for full-time in-person learning, and we urge drivers to stay vigilant for young pedestrians and school buses,” said Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury in a news release issued by the State Highway Administration. “As part of back to school preparations, we also encourage parents to review pedestrian safety practices with their children, stressing the importance of paying attention, using sidewalks and looking both ways before crossing.”

The State Highway Administration (SHA) reminds motorists to always stop for pedestrians. Obey all traffic signs, signals and markings, watch the road and not your phone and observe speed limits. “Speeding makes it more difficult to stop for pedestrians,” the release states.

Pay attention to school buses. When they stop, the bus’ red lights start flashing. And that stop arm swinging out from the side of the bus is a signal for motorists in both directions to stop — as required by law — and wait for students to board or get off the bus.

“Motorists are reminded to allow more time in the morning to get to work, look before backing out of their driveways, and drive slow in school zones and residential areas,” the SHA release states.

We join SHA officials in recommending parents and guardians talk to their children about pedestrian safety. Remind children to use the sidewalk and to check for cars by looking left, then right, then left again before crossing the street. If there is a pedestrian signal at an intersection, make sure children know to push the button and wait for the walk sign before crossing. And children should walk, not run, across the street.

Children also should be paying attention when walking, watching for cars in driveways and parking lot entrances and exits. SHA officials say take off the headphones, take out the earbuds and don’t play games or text.

After a very long year and a half, our schools are back in session. Let’s all do our part to keep our children healthy and safe and in the classroom.

Kent County News Associate Editor Trish McGee also is vice president of the Kent County Board of Education. She did not participate in the writing of this editorial.

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