QUINCY -- Dan Bartelt says it pays for parents to talk with their students periodically during the year about school bus safety -- and most important might be doing what the driver says.
"Everything school bus drivers do is geared to safety of the kids," said Bartelt, a certified school bus driver instructor with the Regional Office of Education and a retired Quincy Public Schools bus driver.
Classes begin this week across the area, which means school buses will be back on the road, students will be at bus stops and school zones will be in force.
"It's always kind of the same thing every year as far as parents staying off their cellphones, trying to pay attention in school zones to what they're doing and driving carefully in those school zones," QPS Director of Security Dan Arns said.
It's also important, Arns said, for parents to "educate themselves" on how to drop off and pick up students especially as the new Baldwin and Denman elementary schools open for students. Additional QPS staff will be on hand at those schools in the mornings and afternoons to help with traffic flow.
A change at Quincy Junior High School will affect morning drop-off of students with 14th Street closed to northbound traffic from Jersey to Maine. Vehicles will need to head west on Jersey alongside the junior high or turn east on Jersey.
A crossing guard has been added at 14th and Jersey to help students safely cross the street, Arns said, and crossing guards also will be in place at Baldwin, Denman and Rooney.
"Overall the first week of school we ask people to be patient, especially in the new schools as we're trying to work the bugs out," Arns said. "It takes a bit to get everything organized and ready to roll."
At the bus stop, students should wait until the bus makes a complete stop, activates its lights and the driver waves them forward before boarding. When leaving the bus at the end of the day, wait until it comes to a complete stop, then exit the bus and go in the direction of home.
"If crossing the street, stand in front of the bus and wait for the driver to wave them across. What the driver is going to do is another check of mirrors to make sure nothing is coming. Often people drive around a stopped school bus," Bartelt said.
"As of July 1, Illinois doubled the fines for passing a school bus. Previously it was $150 for a first offense, not it's $300. Any subsequent goes from $500 to $1,000 or more. There's an incentive to wait 30 seconds for a bus to load and unload."
School buses run on a regular schedule with the same stops every morning and afternoon at roughly the same time.
"If you're on the same schedule as a bus, alter your schedule. Leave five minutes earlier or later," Bartelt said. "Stopping for a stopped bus is 30 to 45 seconds out of life. Anybody can wait that long when it comes to safety for kids."
Safety is a top priority not only on the way to and from school but also in the buildings.
Quincy Public Schools Director of Security Dan Arns said the visitor management system was upgraded over the summer.
"With the upgrade, we lost our database, so people will need to scan again their licenses," Arns said. "People say ‘I already scanned,' but if you didn't in the last couple of weeks, you're not in."
After a license has been scanned at one building, the information will be available across the district as part of the "global" system, Arns said.
Arns also urged people to be mindful of any potential threat.
"If parents hear any type of information that they deem is a threat or could be a threat, make sure to reach out to somebody in their school and let them know," Arns said. "We will deal with it as quickly as possible."