As the principal of Theodore Potter School 74, Tim Clevenger is fully committed to keeping his students safe as part of the district’s new “Take Care, Be Aware” initiative.
The traffic safety campaign is taking place both outside and inside the school.
Every morning and afternoon Clevenger — along with many staff — dons a reflective vest and holds a traffic sign in the middle of the road, directing parents in cars, students walking and riding their bikes, and buses filled with youngsters as they travel to and from the school, which is located at 1601 E. 10th St.
“I’ve been a principal for 17 years and I go where I am needed,” said Clevenger, who noted the number of students walking or riding their bikes has increased annually. “I put on the gear, walk into the road, and hold the sign. Our job is to protect our students by letting drivers know that, for a few minutes, they can stop as we arrive for classes or leave for the day.
“In fact, nearly every person at our school participates,” he said. “It’s a high priority at Potter and at every IPS school.”
Inside the school, staff started the year off with a 10- to 15-minute lesson with all grade levels about traffic safety. Students in Grades 2–6 also learned about bike safety. Students watched some videos on YouTube, and then had class discussions about the importance of being aware of their surroundings.
“Too many kids put on their earphones to listen to music or watch their phones as they walk instead of paying attention to their surroundings,” said Kathy Langdon, IPS’ physical education and health coach. She led a districtwide team to formulate the initiative.
Margaret Cobb, the family and community engagement representative at Anna Brochhausen School 88, said teams across the district work closely with parents on a daily basis.
“We have several staff members outside during arrival and dismissal and if we see someone that is not following the expectations for student safety, we have a conversation with the student and guardian to make sure that they follow the expectations next time.”
By putting safety first, everyone wins — schools, staff and students, Langdon said.
“It allows for staff, students, parents and guardians to learn about expectations, policies, and situations to keep themselves and others safe,” she said.
Before the school year started, the district provided each school with reflective vests, ponchos, flashlights, reflective cones, and stop/slow signs.
Langdon notes that school safety is linked to improved student and school outcomes.
“When students feel safe, they are better learners. If students and staff receive the information and it is a priority, then what is learned becomes a norm. We want students to learn behaviors to keep them safe,” she said. “Evidence also shows educating, investing, and developing safety protocols is like ‘muscle memory’; it delivers a financial and human dividend.”