Elementary, middle and high school students will head back to classrooms this week across the region as classes at most public schools start Tuesday or Wednesday.

Local administrators Belinda Hill, superintendent and principal of Giant City School, and Janice Pavelonis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Carbondale Elementary District 95, have some advice for parents.

“Parents should prepare the child by having conversations about the importance of school and how education is really that great equalizer in life,” Pavelonis said.

Other tips include:

• Make sure children come to school with positive energy about school. Ask questions about their day and have them share their feelings about school.

• Get ready for the morning the night before. Pick an outfit to wear. Set out books, homework and anything that need to go back to school.

• Designate a “launch pad” or place to put those items to streamline getting out the door on time.

• Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and eats a good breakfast. Many schools serve breakfast before school, but a student who is running a little late may miss breakfast. Have a back-up plan for those days.

• Limit screen time with electronics before bed.

“There is an app you can use to limit screen time to help with bedtime,” Hill said.

One of her favorites is a free app called unGlue. It allows parents to limit a child’s online access to social media and entertainment, but still allow internet access for homework.

• Provide a quiet, clutter-free place to do homework. By middle school, students should be doing the work themselves, with little interference from parents.

• Use a planner for third graders and older. Parents can write notes to the teacher and the teacher can write notes to parents.

Pavelonis said CES encourages teachers to really build relationships with their students, so the students will want to do their best work. A relationship between parents and teachers can enhance that.

“When parents have questions, I would encourage them to reach out to the school and teacher. Let us know what’s going on with their child,” Pavelonis said. “We really want to foster a culture of two-way communication.”

She also suggests that parents who cannot afford supplies reach out to places who do, like churches and service organizations. “If they just cannot afford those things, reach out to us and we’ll take care of that too,” Pavelonis said.

• Many schools have some version of a line for cars dropping off and picking up students. Know the procedure and follow it.

Deputy Brian Murrah of Williamson County Sheriff’s Department says drivers should be extra vigilant as school starts.

“Illinois State Police says on two-lane roads, all traffic in both directions must stop because children may have to cross both lanes,” Murrah said. “On roads with four or more lanes, ISP said vehicles traveling in the same direction of the bus must stop.”

He also recommends drivers watching for extra pedestrian traffic in town and near schools.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re driving, you have to watch for pedestrians. We just want people to be careful and take a little time,” Murrah said.

More information on local schools are available on their websites, including school calendars and student handbooks.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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