ROAD safety will be a focus for police as more pupils return to the classroom next Tuesday.
While schools have been open for children of essential workers since the beginning of term two, next week, following weeks of learning from home, prep, Grade 1 and 2 pupils will return to their classrooms, as will Year 11 and 12 students.
Pupils at specialist schools will also return on May 26.
The return to school will be staggered, with pupils in other year levels to return to school on Tuesday, June 9.
School zone speed limits and school crossing guards have been operating since April, but with traffic increasing due to some coronavirus restrictions being lifted and more families to return to school next week, police will have a visible presence to ensure road safety is a priority for all.
Related coverage: School is back and so are school zones
Drivers must slow down to 40km/h around schools between 8 and 9.30am, as well as after school, between 2.30 and 4pm.
Road policing advisor for the region, Acting Senior Sergeant Stuart Gale, said there would be a highly visible police presence around schools during those times.
"We want to ensure motorists are switched on and aware that school crossings are in force," he said.
"With the restrictions around COVID-19 being eased and the increase in traffic flow around the same time as schools returning, we will be making sure people are switched on and aware of the road rules."
With the restrictions around COVID-19 being eased and the increase in traffic flow around the same time as schools returning, we will be making sure people are switched on and aware of the road rules.Acting Senior Sergeant Stuart Gale
Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said pedestrians and cyclists were vulnerable road users, so drivers should always be aware of them when behind the wheel.
This is especially so with the return to school, when many pupils ride their bikes or walk to school.
Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said drivers should be aware of the potential increase in pedestrian and cyclist traffic, but parents should also speak to their children about how to be safe around roads and on shared footpaths.
The state government has given advice to schools to adjust the way drop-off and pick-up is conducted in line with physical distancing measures, but the way it is carried out will vary for each school.
Some schools will manage this with staggered start and finish times - to be conducted during the active school zone period - while others will simply utilise different entry and exit points.
In order to reduce the risk to school staff and pupils, there will also be restrictions regarding who can access schools.
In the first stage of the return to school for its younger pupils, Alfredton Primary School will not be conducting staggered start times.
While the times will remain the same, there will be clearly identified drop-off and pick-up points.
"Because we have a large boundary to our school, it allows us to put in place changes to drop-off and pick-up to ensure that access to the school grounds is limited for parents and visitors, and also so parents can adhere to social distancing," principal Laurel Donaldson said.
Staff will be posted at these points to assist pupils, while parents will be asked to wait on the outside boundary areas, while adhering to social distancing measures, when they drop-off and pick-up their children.
Students who walk or ride to school will enter or depart from the same gate.
With safety a priority, Ms Donaldson said the school was also trying to minimise the inconvenience to parents that could come with staggered start or finish times to make the transition back to face-to-face learning as smooth as possible.
Meanwhile, changes are also being put in place at Black Hill Primary School.
Principal Donna Bishop said there would be a staggered beginning and end to the day, to reduce the amount of parents crowded in the one place.
Parents will be encouraged to use side streets as drop-off and pick-up zones and similar to Alfredton, there are a number of entrances to the school that families will be able to use.
The staggered times are being managed by alphabetical order, so families only need to make one trip.
Staff will be located at the entrances to assist, and pupils who need extra support with adjusting to the return to school will be met by their teachers or another adult they know at the school.
With pupils to be entering and exiting from multiple locations around schools due to social distancing measures, Acting Senior Sergeant Gale said people should slow down when driving through side streets surrounding schools too, even if they are not marked as a school zone.
"We urge everyone in the community to please be aware of this and to slow down around these areas during this time," he said.
And though social distancing is important, parents still needed to park correctly.
"Even though we are trying to be quick and efficient and to minimise contact with others, that is no excuse for not parking correctly or not parking safely," he said.
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