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High costs affecting families this school year

Children returned to school last week. — Stock photo via Pixabay

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter WEST COAST — Last week, schools across the province welcomed students back from summer vacation. School year this year looks more like it did pre-pandemic, with students filing in without masks, ready to tackle the 2023-24 school year. On Sept. 5, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) listed some back-to-school safety tips that focus heavily on traffic safety. Parents

  1. Educate your children on the proper use of crosswalks. Use a marked crosswalk whenever possible and wait for traffic to stop completely before crossing the street.

  2. Whenever possible walk your younger children to the bus stop or school and supervise them while they wait for the bus. Encourage your child to walk to and from school or the bus stop with friends. Students

  3. While boarding a school bus, line up in single file and wait on the sidewalk until the bus has come to a complete stop and has opened the doors.

  4. Be vigilant when crossing the crosswalks and walking through school parking lots. Stay off your phone and electronic devices when in the roadway and parking lots so you are aware of your surroundings and able to react to any situation. Motorists

  5. It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped with its stop sign extended and lights flashing. This includes all lanes in both same and opposite directions of the roadway. The penalties for passing a school bus are 6 demerit points and up to $1200 in fines.

  6. Do not to use mobile phones or electronic devices while driving. This includes parking lots of schools and businesses. The only time it is legal to use your cell phone while driving is when the vehicle is parked or you are using Bluetooth. With extra foot traffic on our roadways in the coming weeks the RNC is reminding everyone of the risks connected to distracted driving.

  7. Reduce your speeds in school zones. The fines for speeding in school zones are double that of a regular speeding ticket.

  8. Pay attention to crossing guards in school zones as well. Their job is to ensure road safety for students and drivers. Failing to stop for them can cost you 2 demerit points against your license and an associated fine.

  9. Pay close attention to the actions of children near intersections, crosswalks or in parking lots as this is an exciting time of year and some students may be distracted.” The RCMP also let the public know of the importance of paying attention in school zones. “It’s that time of year again! Students are heading back to school this week. Please remember to slow down when driving, keep an eye out for excited students and obey school zone speed limits.” Parents can experience stress as children adjust to school. Typical worries include: if their kid will have a good time, if they will make friends, and if they will listen to their teachers. There are other factors for parents to deal with this year too. Janine Young, a mother of two children, is focusing on routine. “Both my kids in middle school and elementary school were looking forward to getting back in the classrooms and with their friends,” said Young. “We, as a family, have experienced COVID-19 multiple times, and believe moving forward with regular routines is important.” Young has additional concerns resulting from the increased cost of living that are more prevalent for this school season. “This year has been more difficult than others due to the rising cost of prices for school snacks and back-to-school gear. I have had to make sacrifices like brand name gear, and buy more generic brands instead. However, we did make ends meet on a budget,” said Young. “Back to school lunches are the most stressful time when this time of year comes. It seems they make kids’ food and snack size lunch portions more expensive, so being creative with healthy options has been limited. I have noticed my kids are getting more ‘convenience’ foods rather than their normal higher end healthier foods they used to get a few years back. Gas prices, fortunately, doesn’t affect us as drastically as other costs, because we are living directly in town with our trips to and from school. We use the school busing system for our children in the afternoon, something I have done since this year, due to trying to save the extra trip.” Keely McIntosh-Hynes sent her daughter to her first day of school this year, and raising a small child through the pandemic, not being able to socialize her as well during lockdowns, was something that weighed heavily. “At the start there were worries about her going to school, to the point that her teacher was asked if there were any changes with the students that she was seeing coming into the school after the pandemic and we were told no, that the younger children that were just coming into the system hadn’t shown any fallback from the time during isolation in the pandemic, so we felt better afterwords with knowing this,” said McIntosh-Hynes. “When it comes to her being in school with the other kids there is always the worry about what kind of illness she could bring home, and with COVID it just adds another part to that worry, but knowing that she wants to be around other kids, all we can to is set her in the best place to be in with her having her shots and trying to remind her to keep herself clean.” The first day of school was a positive experience for her daughter. “It was a happy day to have her go to school. She was so excited to have her first day and meet new people, even with the worry about COVID. Where myself and daughter haven’t had it, there is always the worry if and when we get it and will we be one of the people that it hits hard.” Since this is her daughter’s first year, McIntosh-Hynes can’t compare, but they had a system to keep it affordable. “We offset the cost by buying school supplies and other items throughout the summer so it wasn’t such a big blow to our income. Food prices have gone through the roof anyway. We tried to give a balance between healthy and some unhealthy snacks for her, but I can understand with the way things are today that a lot of families would have a hard time. Even buying the items that we can buy for our child is difficult because of the cost.” Ashley White of Port aux Basques said COVID wasn’t one of her biggest concerns. “I felt my kids got sick a lot last year, so COVID was the least our worries, with gastro back-to-back 15 days straight each time. So there have been no extra worries as such, just normal worries,” said White. “My youngest, who’s five, was not looking forward to it, but my oldest was and their first day went great.” White has always kept the option for homeschooling open if circumstances require going that route. “That’s always in back of my mind and even if I don’t home-school, I read the curriculum online each year, so I know around about what’s happening so I offer extra help on any subject, but it’s not far from my mind ever,” said White. The price increases across the board are something White also struggled with this year. “The prices on supplies this year was crazy. I noticed a big difference. Also, I still find it hard to get items because, since COVID, certain things are harder to get, like joggers for example,” said White. “And that’s something I find hard to just buy online where sizes sometimes are different depending on make. I try to shop smarter for sure. One item was the push open scissors that were hard to find in stores and online $8.99 pair before taxes. I got a pair last year cheaper, so I had keep my eye open for better price. There’s no such thing just grabbing an item anymore. I feel a lot of people need to shop around for better prices.”

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