School officials and NYS Police focus on children’s safety as they head back to school | #schoolsaftey

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB)–On Tuesday, the school bell rang for many public schools throughout Erie and Niagara counties, meaning tens of thousands of students headed back to class.

The schools that went back into session on Tuesday are listed below.

  • Amherst Central School District
  • Clarence Central School District
  • Cleveland Hill Union Free School District
  • Frontier Central School District
  • Ken-Ton Union Free School District
  • Lake Shore Central School District
  • Lancaster Central School District
  • Lewiston-Porter Central School District
  • Lockport City School District
  • Maryvale Union Free School District
  • Newfane Central School District
  • Niagara Wheatfield Central School District
  • North Collins Central School District
  • North Tonawanda City Schools (K-9)
  • Orchard Park Central School District
  • Springville Griffith Institute Central School District
  • Starpoint Central School District
  • Williamsville Central School District

News 4’s Wake-Up crew visited Williamsville School District to hear what was in store for the district that has more than 9,800 students.

“Every year is a new opportunity, there’s new opportunities, new challenges, new opportunities for growth, and I think this year especially there is so much we have in store,” Nick Filipowski, the executive director of the district, said. “Safety is of the utmost importance not only within the district, but within our community as well.”

According to the district’s superintendent, they hired 60 new teachers, some new assistant principals and they’re finding new ways to fight the battle of bullying. They are also focusing on the safety of their students and staff.

“All of our school buildings have security vestibules, so when you enter the building, you’re in a holding room essentially, which is our vestibule so you’re not allowed admittance into the regular school building unless it’s absolutely necessary,” said Dr. Darren Brown-Hall. the Superintendent of Williamsville Central School District.

These security measures were taken throughout all 13 buildings of their district, to help build confidence in safety beyond school doors. Brown-Hall tells us this was finished this year.

“We know what’s happening nation-wide, and we want o make sure that we’re prepared. We know that if students they don’t feel safe, they’re not learning,” said Brown-Hall. “We want to make sure that our students felt safe, and we want to make sure that parents feel safe dropping off their most precious assets everyday in our school buildings.”

While the district works towards making students feel safe in the classrooms, they’re also asking the community to make sure students are safe as they make their way to and from school.

“The big thing is to be patient, especially the first week of school, we’re not in a rush. We want to make sure that all of our students get to school on time–and get delivered home safely as well,” said Filipowski.

“One of the things you have to look out for are school zones, slow down,” said Trooper James O’Callaghan of the New York State Police. “There’s a lot of newer drivers, a lot of sidewalk traffic, there’s a lot of people coming in and out of the school, including buses which are big and slow, so know that.”

Slowing down, staying alert, and keeping off your phone and distractions can help keep others safe. New York State police say to plan to be patient, to most importantly avoid putting children’s lives at risk, and to avoid fines and possible charges.

“When the red lights are on — you are to stop. 50,000 people today will pass a school bus in New York, and that’s alarming, and that’s scary putting children at risk.”

According to Trooper O’Callaghan, passing a school bus when stopped, can lead to you to a typical fine of 5 points on your license (11 points and you lose your license) and you can face a fine in-between $250 to $1,000.

“We have people passing the bus on the left, where the child exits, that could be a criminal charge for endangering the welfare of a child, depending on the situation,” he added.

He also told us that speeding in a school zone is like speeding in a work zone — the fines are higher, and getting two speed zone specific tickets can lead to you losing your license.

Clarence is one district changing the speed limit in school zones this year, from 45 miles per hour to 35.

“With the point value and the monetary value of the ticket — you can still take someone’s life and that should be the end goal — you should not be doing these things because you really do put children and other people at risk to what? Save yourself a few seconds in these areas? It’s not worth it,” said O’Callaghan.

He also encourages parents and students to be mindful of what type of information they post on social media when posting back to school pictures, and encourages parents to monitor screen time, as they’ve seen increased screen time can lead to an increase in anxiety and depression, especially for females.

He also warns that they’ve seen an uptick in “sextortion” with students, and encourages parents to talk to their children about this, and to call police and authorities right away if they are threatened online.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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