'Everybody gets butterflies': Thousands of students, teachers return to school in Calgary

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'Everybody gets butterflies': Thousands of students, teachers return to school in Calgary

'Everybody gets butterflies': Thousands of students, teachers return to school in Calgary

Teacher Pamela Glover says back-to-school day is one of her favourites, especially when children enter Grade 1 to start classes full-time.

"The kids are always excited. It's a new adventure to them — now they're big kids," said Glover, who teaches in the Catholic school system at St. Patrick's School in northeast Calgary. "It's exciting.

Nearly 200,000 students in the city started classes Tuesday following summer break and the Labour Day long weekend. Others, like some in the Calgary Catholic School District's year-round program, have been back for a few weeks now. Still more may start later this week. Universities and colleges also started the fall semester of classes this week.

Commuters saw a notable difference as the bulk headed to classes with backpacks and lunch kits. In the community of Mahogany, about 500 kids started at a new kindergarten to Grade 6 school called Divine Mercy.

"I think everybody gets butterflies on the first day of school, and especially when it's brand-new community," school principal Nadia Verna told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"My advice is just to be open-minded and be embracing [of] a new culture and new group of people, and knowing that you're not the only one feeling that way."

Slow down, AMA asks

Playground zones will be busy places this autumn. Crossing guards and student patrollers help guide kids across the street safely at many schools. In playground zones, drivers must go a maximum of 30 km/h from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

The Alberta Motor Association was out to remind drivers to be careful in the mornings.

"Everybody might be a little bit excited, so we need everybody to make sure that they're paying attention as kids are crossing the crosswalks," school safety patrol co-ordinator Lisa Nowlin-Clayton said.

Distracted driving

Many drivers obey the rules but sometimes they have been spotted speeding or, more frequently, driving while distracted — by their phones, by kids or by scarfing down breakfast in their car, says teacher supervisor Cheryl Mattinson, who works at St. Patrick School in Calgary's northeast.

"It's not everyday we see it but there's times when we see people on their cellphones as they're going through the intersection," she said.

Students in Grades 5 and 6 can volunteer to learn how to be crosswalk patrollers. They learn how to safely escort other students across the street — which includes waiting until all the cars have come to a full stop.

Once, Mattinson said, her students reminded a police officer he needed to stand on the curb so they could lower their signs.

"The police officer found that funny but he said, 'Step off the street,' and then he blew the whistle to take down their signs," she said. "So they take their job pretty seriously."

Bus changes coming

Later this semester, students will have new options to get to school. Calgary Transit is rolling out changes to dozens of bus routes and adding three bus rapid transit, or BRT, lines: Max Orange Line North Crosstown, Max Purple 17th Avenue S.E., and Max Teal South Crosstown. A fourth will be rolled out later. Each bus will be painted the colour of each line.

The name "Max was chosen as the brand to represent maximum convenience, reliability, comfort and efficiency, planning manager Nikhil Lobo told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"It really personifies the service," he said.

As AMA urges drivers to be careful, the group is also reminding students who commute to watch out for vehicles. When entering a crosswalk, the group says to take out your earbuds and put your phone  away.

"Make sure all vehicles have come to a complete stop. As you're going across, make sure you're looking in all directions," Nowlin-Clayton​ said.

"Make sure traffic is actually staying stopped. Look in all directions as you're going across and then get to the corner — and then you know you're safely across the street.

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With files from Mike Symington and the Calgary Eyeopener.