Most schools in this area resume classes this week and next. Cabell County, Lincoln County, Fairland, Chesapeake, South Point, Ironton and Symmes Valley all return Wednesday, with other openings coming later through Aug. 22.
That means the final weekend of summer vacation is past, today is the last day of vacation for most children, and tonight is their first school night of the new year.
It also means those big yellow buses will be on the road early Wednesday morning. According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the sun will rise at 6:43 a.m. Wednesday. By then, some high school students will already have gotten off the bus and be inside the building as the drivers begin their elementary runs. The bus drivers themselves will have been up since about 5 a.m. doing their pre-trip checks.
It should go without saying that car and truck drivers must be careful around school buses. The amber and red warning lights are there for a reason - the safety of children. So are the stop arms that extend from the driver's side of the bus when the warning lights flash. You would think that by now people would know to not drive past the lights, but they still do.
Why anyone would risk the injury or death of a child just to save a few seconds of driving time is beyond the comprehension of most people, but it still happens.
There will also be children walking to school, and there will be parents clogging streets and secondary roads as they wait in line to drop off their kids at the schoolhouse door. Common sense - a rare commodity at times - dictates that we adjust our schedules to accommodate people and vehicles we are likely to encounter this week, especially those driven by parents of first-time students, who will be on a learning curve themselves.
Once the morning bell rings, the school year really begins. One thing parents are learning is that school costs a lot more than it used to. Beyond pencils, paper and workbooks, there is technology (expensive electronic devices) that must be purchased if kids are to keep up with their peers. According to the annual backpack index compiled by Huntington Bank, the average national cost of school supplies, extracurricular fees and technology for the upcoming school year is $1,017 for elementary, $1,277 for middle and $1,668 for high school students. That includes the cost of a basic laptop computer and internet access.
Cabell County parents have some relief from that, as the school system has provided basic school supplies free of charge for the past decade or so. The cost is paid through an excess levy along with community drives and donations.
"Several years back, a lot of families were coming to us and telling us, 'Hey, we're making decisions between buying school supplies and feeding our families," Cabell County Schools spokesman Jedd Flowers told The Herald-Dispatch writer Amanda Larch. "And we thought that wasn't a decision they should have to make, especially since the voters here support an excess levy that allows us some extra funds to provide supplies to the schools."
Local organizations helping with school supplies in Cabell County include churches, the Salvation Army and the Children's Home Society of West Virginia. Other organizations help students and teachers in other districts.
So as another school year begins, it's time to be thankful for the efforts of people helping relieve the economic burden of sending children to school. And it's time to watch out for children on their way to and from a new school year, no matter how they get there.