School's in; please drive carefully

Law enforcement to give school zones extra attention

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 
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More than 60,000 children in the Vancouver, Evergreen and Battle Ground districts are heading to class today in Clark County's biggest back-to-school wave.

They join students in Camas and Washougal, who started the school year Tuesday.

And, they join somebody else who's showing up along the streets near local schools: the police.

The Vancouver Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff's Office are advising motorists about additional enforcement in and around school zones.

The Clark County Sheriff's Office Traffic Unit will monitor school zones in the morning and afternoon, unit supervisor Sgt. Dennis Pritchard said. Patrol deputies are encouraged to patrol school zones in their areas, especially this week to remind people to look out for kids, he said.

Vancouver police officers will be keeping an eye on drivers as well as the kids who are walking, riding or bicycling to school.

Enforcing the 20 mph speed limit in school zones is part of that mission. Vancouver's traffic unit and its patrol officers also will be looking for drivers who don't obey school bus safety signals, or who violate the anti-texting law and hands-free law for cell-phone users.

Officers also will enforce the seat-belt law, child passenger safety laws and bike helmet laws.

While these enforcement efforts will be done throughout the school year, there will be an increased focus in the first month of school, according to a news release.

Even if drivers aren't passing through a school zone, police encourage them to monitor their speed and be extra attentive in areas where students may be walking or riding bikes.

Parents with kids returning to school are reminded that anyone riding a bicycle or scooter or who is on roller skates, in-line skates or a skateboard needs to wear a helmet in the city of Vancouver.

Also, child passenger safety laws require children less than 13 years of age to ride in the back seat when practical.

Clark County's back-to-school migration began last Wednesday in Woodland, La Center, Ridgefield, Hockinson and Green Mountain.

Camas program back

This year, Camas has been able to restore a reading program that was the victim of a district budget cut several years ago.

The program promotes literacy for qualifying kindergartners, identified through a screening process, at Lacamas Heights and Helen Baller elementary schools.

Camas didn't have to do any cutting in this budget cycle, and the district was able to restore the Literacy Early Advocacy Program, or LEAP.

Camas also has a construction project under way with Woodburn Elementary School.

Designed to accommodate 600 students, 71,479-square-foot Woodburn Elementary is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.