Safety a priority on first day of school | Community

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SELMA – Parents and school-age children in Selma hustled to get to school on time Aug. 13 to take first day of school photos, find their classrooms and greet their teacher and classmates. School staff and teachers seemed equally eager to see that the 2019-2020 school year started off safely.

Roosevelt Elementary has a round-about drop-off at the rear of its campus now that Floral Avenue has been reconfigured. Kelly Cuevas, the after-school coordinator at Roosevelt, was filling in on crossing guard duty that morning. While most commuters were complying with speed zone laws, some seemed oblivious to the fact it was the first day of school in town.

“We have three to four crosswalks and then with the junior high, there are two more at the four-way stop,” Cuevas said of all the foot traffic that fills Floral Avenue before and after school. Since the City of Selma is planning for more housing developments to be built further to the east, the amount of commuters and pedestrians will only increase over time.

“With more people, there’ll be more students. Who’s going to watch all of them? The traffic is going to be ridiculous.”

Cuevas suggested commuters give themselves more time in the mornings now since campuses will be congested with traffic all over town.

“Come earlier or go around [the schools], be cautious and aware of the kids because what if it were your child? We’re not just teachers and staff, [the students] are our family. If something happens to them, it affects all of us. We want to make sure they get safely to school,” she said.

Cuevas said she saw at least four or five drivers on their cell phones as they drove past on Floral. She said even one drove through the crosswalk after she’d put up her hand-held stop sign to help students and parents cross.

“I had to shout, ‘hey!’ otherwise, he would have hit some kids. They’re not paying attention and their phone is more important than our children? These are everybody’s kids here in Selma. Everybody’s family so if hits somebody, people are related to them and they’ll be at them asking ‘why were you rushing?’ Let them get to school late if they have to. It’s not worth rushing.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 129,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2015. In 2016, one in every five children under the age of 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.

Meanwhile at Abraham Lincoln, new Principal Sato Sanikian was welcoming new students the first day of classes by letting them know what’s expected during a special assembly that first day.

“I started my entire career as an instructional aide at El Capitan Middle School in 1992,” she said reflecting on her professional journey. She’s been teaching in different capacities since 1996 starting with business classes at Selma High. She worked as a Valley ROP coordinator in Parlier, as a Learning Director at SHS and then in 2015 became an assistant principal at SHS.

“So with this age group, and high school students, I feel I’m best serving my purpose as far as my leadership skills. I want to help lead them through middle school, through those trying years and get them ready for high school.”

Sanikian said she’ll use her past 17 years at Selma High to prepare the middle schoolers for the next four years of high school that she hopes will then lead to further education and careers.

“I know what’s ahead and I can guide them. We can prepare them early for their future careers with what their interests are. Middle school is the time for career exploration and we have a nice amount of electives for our students in manufacturing, the arts and home economics. It’s a great place to be. The kids are excited and we had Aaron the Eagle out there greeting the students. It had a good feeling this morning.”

As a parent, Sanikian said she’s aware of what to expect on a personal level with the seventh and eighth graders as they start to mature.

“They just want somebody to guide them. This morning as I greeted students and chatted with them, they’re really nice kids. I’ve always noticed that with Selma Unified students. They’re really good-hearted kids and that’s part of the reason I’m here.”

In the wake of shootings taking place around the United States, Selma Unified School District officials are stressing the need to raise awareness about mental health and bullying prevention.

Sanikian said parents can look for signs at home such as drastic changes in their child’s behavior as in indication they may need help.

“You can tell by the look on their face and their demeanor when they get home that something’s wrong. Just being aware of your child, being aware of how they normally operate and if something just isn’t right, go with your feeling and talk with them.”

The District has mental health clinicians and school psychologists available to help address students’ social and emotional needs. Teachers are also trained to be aware of such needs, she said.

“We’re always trying to find ways to provide a positive school environment making sure we’re there if there is some type of negative incident. We speak to the children and say ‘this is what happened. What could you have done differently?’ We’re trying to teach them how to get through life and how to get through disagreements they might have with others.”

As far as safety, Sanikian said there are also a number of drills – fire, lock down, earthquake – that take place throughout the school year and camera security systems are in place in case there was an intrusion on campus. Also, each school has safety plans in place that’s reviewed every year.

“We’ve already planned those [drills] out and we educate the children. We have an advisory period where our teachers educate them about things that might come up and what to do and where the exits routes are. We have a very good staff here and they know the importance of school and student safety. That’s first and foremost. We want to make sure all our students are safety before educate them.”

During the school year, if parents have concerns Sanikian recommends they communicate with their children’s teachers. She also recommends they attend open houses, meet and greet events and other school functions.

“I plan to have monthly meetings whether it’s coffee with the principal and there are also parent meetings so they can get involved as much as they can and talk with us. As a parent myself, I found it very beneficial that when I spoke to the administration, to the teacher of my son and daughter. You have to be hands on, as far as being a parent. That way your children will more likely have a success year.”

For students, Sanikian recommends they either join a club, a sport, or a performing arts activity as an outlet to express themselves and meet friends beyond the classroom. This, too, would help them prepare for high school and start thinking about their future careers, she said.

“If [students] are planning on going to a great college, [colleges] are going to look at what activities you’ve been involved with. They’re looking for a well-balanced person, so it’s important to get involved and join clubs or sports, band or choir, or any of the performing arts. That’s very important for the mind, body and soul of the person as well.”

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