Thousands of students are heading back to the classrooms across the area this week.

An exception is Oneonta, which, because of construction delays, will not begin classes until Monday.

Many of those students will be introduced to new teachers, new subjects, new friends — and, for some, all new schools.

That can be exciting for many, but it can also be overwhelming. 

Parents should take time to talk to their kids over the first couple weeks of school to see if they have any concerns — with other students, with teachers or with the work involved — that can be addressed early. If there are concerns, talking to school officials might be warranted.

But parents must make sure to get all sides of the story before pursuing any action. Some parents are quick to blame everyone but their children for any issues that come up. That often isn’t the case. It could be a miscommunication between the teacher and the student, a lack of understanding of subject matter, or children just not getting along.

There is not getting along, and then there is bullying. Concerns of bullying must be addressed by students, teachers, administrators and parents as quickly as possible. Bullying happens way too often — in person and, in today’s world, online. It’s important to make an effort to stop bullying before it gets so bad that it causes emotional or physical harm to the one who is bullied. 

A strong support system — including parents, friends and school officials — can be one way to fight it.

That support system can also go out to the community. We encourage all adults — not just parents and other family members — to support the students in whatever they do. Cheer on the sports teams at their games. Attend the fall play or spring musical. Support the class and club fundraisers. Go to the school concerts.

Safety is also an important part of community involvement. Each morning and afternoon, students will be on the side of the roads, waiting for buses, walking to school or being picked up or dropped off. Drivers must be especially vigilant at those times.

Buses will also be making frequent stops. If a bus has its yellow flashers on, it means it’s getting ready to stop, so drivers should be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights mean students may be loading or unloading.

We were lucky last year when a Norwich bus driver prevented an older student from stepping off the bus as a car zoomed by on the right. The driver, Samantha Call, saw the car coming and grabbed the student’s shirt to prevent him from leaving the bus.

Drivers should never pass a bus with its red lights on. It is illegal — and dangerous. Schools are now allowed to install stop arm cameras to catch drivers who don’t obey the law regarding stopped buses. Drivers caught on camera passing a stopped bus would face $250 tickets, with higher fines for repeat violators. The cameras, mounted on the stop sign that extends outward whenever a bus is stopped, will automatically record each vehicle that passes it illegally.

Students must be safe.

While safety is important, sometimes being a bit uncomfortable can be good for students. We encourage all students to use school as a chance to explore the possibilities. Try a new sport. Sign up for an unexpected class. Take the spotlight by joining the drama club (or shine the spotlight on others). Join a service group to see how to give back to the community.

We wish all students, teachers, faculty and staff a safe and great 2019-20 school year. 

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