When classes begin Tuesday in Sulphur Springs, motorists are reminded to be ever vigilant and cautious while traveling through school zones to prevent accident, injury, stalled traffic, crashes, fines and possibly even jail time.
Each campus in Sulphur Springs Independent School District has its own procedure for traffic direction during school hours, particularly student drop off and pick up times, as does the bus hub.
SSISD Police and Texas Department of Public Safety remind motorists to be ever watchful in school zones starting this week. They are marked with flashing yellow lights and are zoned at lower speeds. There usually are students, officers and parents moving in and out of traffic lanes, and exiting the grounds on foot and in vehicles. People are reminded to slow down and watch for pedestrians, whether students, parents, school staff or police officers.
“If you see school zone lights and signs, slow down and be ready to stop. If you see an officer pull in behind you with lights and sirens, stop,” said SSISD Police Officer Norman Sanders, whose campus assignment is SSMS, although like the other district police, he is available to assist at other campuses as needed.
ECLC and Elementary campuses
Drivers are asked to be extra careful through the elementary school zones, follow the direction of traffic and know the area.
At Early Childhood Learning Center, school staff will be on traffic duty on the campus. Those visiting campuses are asked to please adhere to those individuals’ instructions, moving as directed.
To help move things along in a timely, orderly manner at Sulphur Springs Middle School where traffic can back up for more than a mile in either direction in front of the school, Principal Jena Williams sent letters to parents regarding drop off and pick up rules at the school.
The letter tells people that all traffic exiting the parking lot at SSMS will be directed to turn right in order to keep traffic flowing safely the first week of school. Students can be dropped off as early as 7:30 a.m. during the first week of school and at 7:40 a.m. starting Sept. 1 Parents are asked to consider that and the fact that students go to class at 8:05 a.m. and are tardy after 8:08 a.m.
In the mornings, buses will drop students off in front of SSMS. Unless delivering special needs students, no parents will be allowed to drop students off in front of the buildings; Special needs students can use the child ramp in front. All other car riders should be dropped off in the back of the school. (Take Wisenbaker Lane.)
Drivers should pull up as far as possible before unloading students at SSMS in the morning. Look for school staff as they will be out directing traffic and motioning where to stop. Students, parents and teachers will be asked to stop at the cross walk on the parking lot side of the driveway and wait until the crossing guard gives them clearance to cross the driveway.
If parents need to enter the SSMS building for any reason, they are to park in the lined parking spaces in front of the building, not in the back. They then must check-in at the front office and get a visitor’s badge.
In the afternoons, SSMS students will exit the building in the back. Buses will be loaded first and sent on to the hub. Car riders will be released when buses are rolling off the campus. Cars picking up students at SSMS in the afternoon will be required to stay in the double line in the driveway. A teacher on duty will motion all cars to pull forward. Once the cars are stopped and staff indicate it’s safe, students will then be directed to find their car so they can leave. All cars will stay put until the rest of the cars int he group are loaded. The teacher on duty will motion for all cars in the group to move out. While cars are moving, no students will be allowed to cross or enter the street or go to a vehicle. All cars are to keep moving as far down in the line as possible, the first two empty cars at the front stop and hold the place for the next group of vehicles. This sequence will be repeated as many times as necessary until all kids are loaded.
Parents who wish to walk up to collect their SSMS student may cross at the walk when cars are loading to find their child. Parents should wait to cross again until all cars are stopped and being loaded.
Williams recommends parents talk to their SSMS students to remind them to be looking for the person picking them up, and to wait until the signal is given before walking into the road to ensure their safety.
Anyone traveling along Wildcat Way during school pick up and drop off times are also reminded to exhibit care when passing other vehicles in line to turn into or exiting the school. Also, expect there will be officers out directing traffic, at least the first week of school and as buses enter and exit the campus. Follow their direction, and when passing them, do so with care and at a reasonable speed.
“At middle school, we ask people approach with an abundance of patience until traffic settles down. There will be plenty of officers there to help get youth through,” said Sanders.
SSISD Police Officer Donny Gaddis, who is assigned to Douglas Intermediate campus but has had a student at the SSMS campus, recommends people who don’t want to wait in long lines the first few days of school consider arriving 15-20 minutes ahead of school dismissal or start times or wait 10-20 minutes before heading out to pick up their student from SSMS.
For more information about SSMS loading and unloading issues, contact Williams at SSMS at 903-885-7741.
While there there are no designated school zones, the area is zoned at a slower speed.
When nearing the bus hub at Gerald Prim football stadium, be prepared to stop as buses are loading, unloading and heading out for routes and schools. Don’t try to go around.
“There is no school zone designation in front of high school designating a school zone on Houston Street but people still need to drive slow during school hours when traffic is heavy,” said SSISD Police Officer Gordon “Lurch” Fulcher, who along with Officer Glynda Chester, is assigned to SSHS.
SSHS students are also reminded to drive cautiously when leaving the school. There are still others trying to leave as well as students and buses flocking to the stadium, which acts as a bus hub.
Those motorists who feel they can’t wait for school traffic are recommended to find alternate routes during the morning and after school traffic rush, roughly 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through most school zones — especially the unmarked area in front of SSHS and the park, notes Fulcher.
Also expect that any driver stopped by officers for violating the traffic code, especially in school zones, can and usually are issued tickets — which usually come at a steep price.
School police have radar capabilities and will be out this year in the areas around the schools making sure that speed limits and other traffic safety regulations are adhered to.
Gaddis reminds that traffic on the streets around Douglas Intermediate School is one-way only. When entering those two streets, be sure the vehicle is going in the same direction as all the other cars. Motorists should factor that into their travels, especially from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., when parents and buses are in and out delivering and picking up students.
Also, remember in the mornings when dropping students off at Douglas that there is only one drop-off lane. Be courteous and observe that; also don’t stop for an extended period of time in the drop-off lane. There are two designated lines in the afternoons only.
Motorists are reminded to be ever watchful for loading and unloading buses on the highway and city streets. If a bus is stopped, the cars traveling in both the same and opposite lanes are required to stop.
“If the sign is out and lights are flashing, don’t pass the school bus,” Chester reminds.
DPS Trooper Sylvia Jennings reminds that state law “requires approaching drivers stop when a bus is stopped and operating a visual signal – either red flashing lights or a stop sign. Drivers should not proceed until the school bus resumes motion; the driver is signaled by the bus driver to proceed; or the visual signal is no longer activated. A driver does not have to stop for a school bus if it is on a highway with roadways separated by an intervening space or physical barrier. (If a highway is divided only by a left-turning lane, the roadways are not separated, and drivers must stop for school buses.)”
In other words, if a bus were to stop on Interstate 30 east in Sulphur Springs, motorists traveling on the westbound lane on I-30 do not have to stop; there’s a large concrete wall dividing the highway.
It does mean, however, no trying to pass a slowing school bus or going around on the shoulder or other lane in town or on other highways (ex. State Highway 19 or FM 67 west).
Anyone caught passing a school bus by law enforcement, either SSISD police or other officers, can be ticketed.
And, according to Jennings, drivers who illegally pass school buses will starting Sept. 1 face higher fines too. The maximum fine for a first offense will increase from $1,000 to $1,250. Something else for drivers to keep in mind, the law already allows DPS to suspend the driver’s license of driver’s convicted of the offense more than once for up to six months. Also, a ticket for illegally passing a school bus cannot be dismissed through defensive driving either.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCaw adds the department’s support for child safety and commitment to school travel safety.
“DPS will not tolerate individuals who disregard the law and illegally pass stopped school buses,” McCaw noted in a press release.
Chester also reminds drivers that cell phone use while driving is prohibited in school zones.
“Most people have a lot going on, whether on their mind or in the car. Any distraction could cost a child’s life. We want to prevent that from happening. No cell phones in school zone. Turn ‘em off,” Chester said.
Motorists stopped for talking on cell phones in an active school zone can and usually are fined for the offense.
Overall, school police and staff in general ask people to make a concerted effort to slow down, eliminate distractions, follow traffic flow patterns, plan ahead for slower travel times and be careful when passing staff and officers, and expect kids to dart in and out of school yards walking home and getting into cars. Drive safely and follow directions of people who bravely step out into traffic, be it officer or school staff, to direct traffic in school zones
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