— From Staff Reports
Weatherford ISD students, as well as students in public schools across the area, will begin a new school year Monday morning.
In Weatherford, the first school bells ring shortly after 8 a.m. on some campuses, but the school day will actually begin much earlier than that. The first school bus stop – on Route 21 – is scheduled for 5:55 a.m. at 6490 Horseshoe Bend Road.
With that, police and DPS are asking motorists to be alert Monday and watch for children walking to or from bus stops or waiting for their morning bus to arrive. Motorists are asked to slow down and obey school zones, including the cell-phone free law, and to obey rules concerning stopped buses that are loading or unloading children.
“As the new school year opens, I urge drivers to do their part in keeping youngsters safe by obeying school zone speed limits and stopping for school buses,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “DPS will not tolerate individuals who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses.”
One of the most dangerous times of a student’s trip on a school bus is when they are entering or exiting the bus. Drivers are cautioned to slow down and pay attention in school zones since children may not be looking for oncoming traffic when they step into a roadway.
State law requires that approaching drivers stop when a bus is stopped and operating a visual signal – either red flashing lights or a stop sign. Drivers should not proceed until the school bus resumes motion, the driver is signaled by the bus driver to proceed or the visual signal is no longer activated. A driver does not have to stop for a school bus if it is on a highway with roadways separated by an intervening space or physical barrier. If a highway is divided only by a left-turn lane, the roadways are not separated and drivers must stop for school buses.
Beginning Sept. 1, drivers who illegally pass school buses will now face higher fines. The maximum fine for a first offense will increase from $1,000 to $1,250. For drivers convicted of this offense more than once, the law already allows DPS to suspend the driver license for up to six months. (A ticket for illegally passing a school bus cannot be dismissed through defensive driving.)
In addition to a fourth school resource officer that the department has added for the upcoming school year, Weatherford police said they will have an increased presence at Weatherford ISD during the first the first week of school, visible to parents and students as they start classes.
Officers will be spending time at all 11 schools, focusing on the drop off period and end of the school day, according to Lt. Patrick Mahoney.
Student transportation in WISD is one of the big changes this school year is the district’s new contractor First Student managing the buses and routes – all 37 of them. Of note regarding WISD buses:
• Bus routes will be slow the first few weeks of the 2013-14 school year. This is because new riders are being added daily and routes having to be altered.
• Students are allowed and encouraged to bring water (in plastic containers/bottles) on the bus, especially in the afternoon as afternoon temperatures this time of year are between 90-100 degrees.
• All student riders must be registered to ride a First Student school bus. Rider permit forms can be picked up at the child’s school, from the child’s bus driver, First Student’s office at 1009 Sloan St. (behind the WHS Ninth Grade Center) or by downloading the form at weatherfordisd.com and clicking the “Transportation” button on the left-hand side. If you have any additional questions, please call First Student, Inc. at 817-599-3189.
The district has placed a “Back to School Information” link on its homepage, found on the left that includes a multitude of information and schedules for parents and students.
Students at Austin and Curtis elementary schools will notice something different as well – the additions of two portable buildings to each campus to help ease student crowding.
See the morning bus routes schedules for Weatherford ISD to the right of this story.