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Loading up on safety
Fair prepares students for start of year
Safety WEB 1
Sheryle Pirkle, left, and Jan Wilson help Jason Snee on Monday during a safety fair demonstration. - photo by Jim Dean

The new school year doesn’t start until Thursday, but the learning is well under way.

Parents and children gathered Monday at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center for the SOAR Back to School safety fair.

“I liked all of it,” said Daenicia Hines. “I got to see and sit in a fire truck and police cars.”

Her brother, Nathanael Hines, also enjoyed the fair, which was put on by the Forsyth County school system and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Forsyth.

“I sat in a fire truck and I pet the police dog,” he said. “And I took a picture with the police dog and the police.”

The children had a good time, but more importantly, they learned how to be safe, which was the purpose of the first-time event, said organizer Cathy Sykes.

“When kids get on and off the bus, the last thing they think about is safety,” she said. “We want to keep kids safe no matter where they are … that’s why we’re here today.

“We’re so passionate about this.”

Students who attended also got to take part in crafts and meet law enforcement officers. They also worked their way through five safety stations, each of which taught a crucial skill for becoming a safe bus rider.

They learned to stay at least 12 feet away from the bus and to look both ways before crossing a road.

Also covered was how to communicate with the bus driver, using special sign language to know about proper crossing technique.

Sykes said at first the routine can “seem a little intricate and overwhelming.”

“But we rely on that routine to keep our students safe,” she said. “Once we get through that first 30 days, it all happens so quickly.”

Virginia Barwick, lead driver, said students also were shown how to sit and slide out of the back door during an emergency.

“The state is focusing on loading and unloading,” she said.

Students were taught that school buses are loaded by age, with younger students in the front, Barwick said.

They also learned to sit “back to back and bottom to bottom,” in the seats, which is crucial for younger children who are unaccustomed to not wearing seat belts. They must also hold their backpacks in their laps.

Amanda Clark brought daughter Kiersten, a rising kindergartener.

While Kiersten Clark said she’s not looking forward to homework, “the most boring thing ever,” she liked the event, as did her mother.

“It was good for her to get used to the school bus and learn about how to stay safe,” Amanda Clark said.

Hines’ mother Lenecia said being new to the school system, the event was a great way “to find out about the school bus system.”

“I liked the event because there were a lot of different activities to do and it was informative.”