Most Oak Ridge students returned to school on Monday, and police officers started a back-to-school traffic safety campaign.Â It’s known as “Operation Safe Start” and will focus on drivers who illegally pass school buses, speed in school zones, don’t wear safety belts or fail to ensure that their children doâ€”or commit other unsafe driving actions near the schools.
Students at Willow Brook Elementary School and the Oak Ridge Schools’ Preschool returned to school in July. Oak Ridge will use an alternative schedule during the first week of school. (See theÂ Oak Ridge Schools’Â websiteÂ for more information.)
In Anderson County, students returned to school on Wednesday, Aug. 7.
The resumption of classes in Oak Ridge caps a week in which school officials welcomed back representatives of graduating classes from 1946 to 2013, held a reception for new Superintendent Bruce Borchers and Assistant SuperintendentÂ Chris Marczak, and together with the Oak Ridge Police Department, announced a new agreement governing school resource officers, or SROs.
The Police Department said “Operation Safe Start” will continue the first few weeks of the school year with extra officers assigned to traffic education and enforcement. Enhanced traffic education and enforcement efforts will stay in place throughout the school year, the ORPD said in a press release.
“The beginning of the school year is a time when there is a greater risk of transportation-related injuries to children,” the press release said. “The fact that there are more children on the road each morning and afternoon, as well as changed driving patterns and fewer daylight hours elevates this risk. The Oak Ridge Police Department encourages all motorists, parents, and students to practice safe driving and pedestrian habits.”
Anderson County officials said there is significantly more traffic when school is in session, and pedestrians, buses, and parents all contribute to school zone congestion. Among the traffic issues are parking, speeding, and unsafe U-turns.
“Motorists should exercise a heightened awareness in and around a school zone,” Anderson County Sheriff Paul White said. “Potential hazards are much easier to perceive when driving at or below the school zone speed limit. Special attention must also be paid to buses displaying flashing red lights when on an undivided roadway. In these instances, drivers are required by state law to stop and wait until the flashing red lights are turned off before passing a bus.”
The sheriff offered suggestions to make school zones safer:
- Don’t speed,
- Don’t impede traffic,
- Donâ€™t block intersections or school entrances and exits,
- Donâ€™t make U-turns,
- Watch for children walking or on bicycles, and
- Always make sure that your children are wearing seat belts when transportingÂ them to and from school.
The gathering of alumni during a “welcome back” ceremony for teachers last week at Oak Ridge High School was organized by Oak Ridge Board of Education Chair Keys Fillauer. The ceremony also included introductions to new teachers andÂ new Superintendent Bruce Borchers and Assistant Superintendent Chris Marczak.
“We have found the right person to lead us,” Fillauer said, after briefly discussing the superintendent search, which started in April 2012.
During last week’s ceremony, the alumni marched across an ORHS stage one-by-one, identified their classes, and briefly discussed their time in Oak Ridge Schools or talked about what they’re doing now. They included retirees, teachers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, local officials, college students, and U.S. Department of Energy employees. Several had married their high school sweethearts, and some had met their best friends here. Others fondly recalled athletic championships or said Oak Ridge Schools had prepared them well for college.
Fillauer said a representative of the Class of 1944, which had 11 graduates, was unable to attend the ceremony because the person was competing in a square dancing competition in Rogersville.
Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan recognized the class representatives as leaders and people who make the community great.
“The best asset this community has are the Oak Ridge Schools,” Beehan said, who moved to Oak Ridge 25 years ago with a two-year-old and four-year-old. “They lived up to everything we expected for our family.”