Schools reopen Monday on Outer Banks; stay alert for stopped buses, speed zones

School buses will be rolling once again this morning in Dare County as schools reopen for in-person learning.

Elementary school students will be returning four days each week, Monday through Thursday. Friday is a virtual learning day for all. Middle and high school students will be returns two days per week, with half of the alphabet returning Monday and Tuesday and the other half Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is a virtual learning day for all.

Virtual Learning remains an option for all students K-12 for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

Dare County students have been mainly out of classrooms since last March, with the exception of a two-week return to hybrid in-person learning at the end of October. COVID-19 impacts began the second week of school and resulted in hundreds of quarantines among students and staff.

For returning students this coming week, the school division requires a daily health screening text/email process that will restart on Monday morning beginning at 6 a.m.  School thermal temperature units will take the temperature of all students and staff members when they enter schools.

In addition, everyone over the age of 5 is expected to wear a cloth face covering on all school buses and in school facilities. Outside mask breaks will be provided at different points in the day and while students eat breakfast and lunch.

Social distancing is required and will be emphasized throughout the day. Students will be reminded to stay on the right and left sides of school hallways, 6 feet apart.

All meals are free for the remainder of the year to all students, both in person and virtual and curbside meals will be available for free for virtual and remote student families on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Curbside locations are CHSS, MMS, and FFHS from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Friday free meal distribution will be available to all students at various locations throughout the county from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“I am highly confident that we will keep our schools open for the remainder of the school year and continue on a path to easing the necessary restrictions that are in place,” schools superintendent John Farrelly said in an email to school families. “It’s been a long year for all of us but much better times are ahead. Thank you for your resiliency, your collaboration, and your commitment to pulling together despite the many challenges that we have faced.”

With in-person instruction returning, it’s a good time to review the rules of the road when it comes to school buses on North Carolina’s highways.

School zones along U.S. 158 are clearly marked with flashing lights and signs in Kitty Hawk and Nags Head at the elementary schools.

The speed limit on Croatan Highway drops to 35 mph in the mornings and afternoon adjacent to the schools.

School zones are also located along Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores, N.C. 12 in Buxton, U.S. 64 through Manteo and Colington Road in Kill Devil Hills.

Drivers should also be aware to stop in all directions of travel when a school buses’ red flashing lights are on and the stop arm is extended on all roads with four lanes or less.

However, under North Carolina law, traffic coming from the opposite direction along the five-lane U.S. 158 can continue traveling because there is a dividing turn-lane between the travel lanes.

Motorists are encouraged to assist the Highway Patrol in reporting dangerous drivers by dialing *HP (*47) from their mobile device. Callers are requested to provide their location, nature of offense observed and description of the vehicle in question.

According to NHTSA data, from 2004 to 2013, 327 school-age children died in school-transportation-related crashes; 54 were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 147 were occupants of other vehicles, 116 were pedestrians and nine were pedal cyclists.

There were more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.

The N.C. Highway Patrol says 3,100 vehicles pass stopped school buses on an average day.

A new law passed in 2017 increases the penalty for passing a stopped school bus to at least $400, and allows images from cameras on school buses to be used to issue tickets like those given to drivers that run red lights at intersections.