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EDITORIAL: New Clark County school year brings a mix of optimism, hope

It’s back to school time — yes, already — as some 320,000 students returned to classrooms on Monday in more than 330 Southern Nevada campuses for the first day of the 2019-2020 school calendar. Officials with the Clark County School District, the nation’s fifth-largest, said the new year began without any major glitches. “I feel that we had a great first day,” Superintendent Jesus Jara said.

This time of year presents challenges for parents, children and educators as they fall back into routine, adjust to different settings and become acclimated to new and higher expectations. But it also affects residents without school-age children, particularly when they traverse the valley’s roadways.

According to AAA, about 13 percent of students walk or bike to school. “Back to school,” said Sergio Avila of AAA Nevada, “means it’s time for drivers to become more vigilant to avoid needless tragedies” such as the March death of 12-year-old Jonathan Smith after he was struck by a vehicle near his school.

That means drivers must be pay close attention to the rules governing crosswalks and school zones, particularly during the early morning and late afternoon hours. In addition, motorists must follow the law regarding school buses when the vehicles are stopped and boarding or dropping off students.

The new school year brings a mix of optimism, hope and even trepidation, from the seniors on the cusp of finishing their first great journey to the frightened kindergartners leaving their parents behind for the first time and entering a whole new world intended to foster their academic and social development. None of this would be possible without the district’s 35,000 employees, including more than 15,000 teachers, the vast majority of whom are dedicated professionals working overtime to help instill children with the tools to succeed and realize their full potential.

These educators, however, can’t succeed alone. The school district’s achievement issues are well-known. But a new school year is also a good time for parents to step up and help the district mitigate these challenges by taking an active role in the education of their children, whether that includes volunteering at school, opening and maintaining lines of communication with teachers, staying on top of their children’s academic progress, impressing in their kids a respect for teachers, administrators and other students — or, preferably, all of the above.

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