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May. 25, 2022 | Wednesday
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Police launch safety blitz as new school year starts
Athina and Carson McConkey pose in front of Crossroads Public School on the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 3. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

After a summer of fun and leisure, Tuesday was not a usual day for six-year-old Grace Miarecki, who was starting Grade 1 at Crossroads Public School in Virgil.

She said she was a bit nervous moving from senior kindergarten into Grade 1.

But Grace had plenty of support from her older sister, Emily, who started Grade 4 at Crossroads. Eight-year-old Emily said she was most excited about gym classes as “you get exercised a lot.”

The Miareckis were among hundreds of children starting a new school year on Tuesday in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Grade 4 student Carson McConkey said he was looking forward to meeting new teachers and having recess time with the older children. Carson’s sister, Athina, who started Grade 2, said she was excited to spend recess time with her younger friends from kindergarten.

When Athina was in senior kindergarten, her friends were in junior kindergarten. Now, that her friends are in Grade 1, she is glad they’re going to have the same recess time.

The first day back is always hectic and Crossroads principal Gerda Klassen was busy from early Tuesday morning preparing and greeting new and returning students.

"Our first day of school was wonderful. The staff worked hard to prepare the building and classrooms. Staff met students outside, who were eager to find their new classes," Klassen said in an email to The Lake Report. "The day ran smoothly, from arrival to bus departure. Students were happy to be reunited with friends, and teachers with colleagues and families."

Tuesday also coincided with the 19th annual Traffic Safety and Awareness Day conducted by the Niagara Regional Police. Officers across the region were looking for drivers who were speeding, driving while distracted, not wearing their seatbelts, failing to obey a crossing guard and not stopping for a school bus.

By the end of the day, 73 tickets had been issued and 89 warnings given out across Niagara, police said in a news release.

Niagara Region has also implemented a new community safety zone at St. Davids Public School. The enforcement for the 1.10-kilometre zone, stretching from York and Queenston roads to Concession 3 Road, will start mid-September.

Police were at the school Tuesday handing out information cards and explaining the details about Community Safety Zones. Officers will be at St. Davids during school hours over the next couple of weeks to inform the public about these new changes, the department said. 

As of Tuesday, 10 Niagara Student Transportation Services school buses have been equipped with interior and exterior video cameras. The video footage can help bus drivers to file complaints if other vehicles fail to stop for a school bus with activated red flashing lights.

By the end of November, 100 buses will be equipped with video cameras, police said.

With the start of school, police reminded drivers to slow down in school and community safety zones. All drivers and cyclists must stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the road and when a crossing guard displays a stop sign. Before turning or proceeding through a crosswalk, motorists must also wait until a crosswalk is clear from pedestrians and school crossing guards, police said.

Many set fines for speeding and traffic signal related offences in a community safety zone are also doubled.