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Drivers urged to pay attention in school traffic

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chilton County Schools students go back to class on Aug. 9, and drivers are being reminded to be extra careful.

The start of the school year means additional traffic on some roads in the morning and early afternoon hours.

Local police departments will be directing traffic during the first few days.

The Sheriff’s Office will be at Isabella High School, Verbena High School and Verbena Annex directing traffic.

Chilton County Sheriff John Shearon said motorists need to be watchful in school zones, “making sure you are aware of the speed limits … busses turning in, the kids crossing the road.”

“A kid could dart out from behind a car and you might not know it until you are right there on them,” Shearon said. “… make sure you are going a safe speed to be able to react if someone does run out in front of you.”

Shearon said drivers also need to avoid distracted driving.

He said there is a school zone speed limit for the annex that drivers need to follow.

“We will have all available units out directing traffic the first several days,” Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer said. “The first few days are always more hectic especially on County Road 44 at the elementary and intermediate schools. During those first few days, many parents are parking and walking their child into the school. Lots of pedestrian traffic in addition to the vehicle traffic.”

He said drivers need to be patient during the first few weeks, then things will be smoother.

Clanton Police Chief Keith Maddox agreed, saying drivers need to slow down because of the volume of traffic that will be around the schools during pick up and drop off times.

“Be alert because there will be a lot of children running around,” Maddox said.

Drivers also need to pay attention to police officers who are directing traffic and obey their signals.

“It is very dangerous for the officer as well, so anytime you see an officer out directing traffic, just pay close attention to what they want you to do,” Shearon said.

Keeping roadways clear during drop off and pick up is also important.

Thorsby Police Chief Rodney Barnett said if there is a line to drop off or pick up students, parents need to keep from blocking Concordia Street. He said if the line is out to the street, parents should pull to the side of the street or circle the school to give the line time to start moving.

The line backing up into the road could spill over onto Highway 31 or create the risk of someone accidentally stopping on a nearby railroad track.

This will also be the first full school year where every campus will have a police presence. The Chilton County Board of Education approved having a security-focused officer for schools that did not have a School Resource Officer. Shearon said there is a difference in the responsibilities and training for the two titles.

Clanton Police Department will continue to provide School Resource Officers for Clanton schools. Jemison Police Department will provide SROs for Jemison schools. Maplesville and Thorsby police, will provide School Security Officers for their respective schools, along with the Sheriff’s Office for Isabella and Verbena.

As school security officers, “we are there to make sure the students are safe, that the teachers are safe,” Shearon said.

“It is something that we always needed to have,” Shearon said. “… I’m glad we are able to join with the board of education to get this done.”

He said lack of funding had been the main reason such a program had not been implemented in the past.

Barnett said he was glad to have an officer at the school full-time.

“That should make every parent in Chilton County Schools feel good — that they are going to have an officer in their school,” Barnett said.