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Officials encourage safety ahead of a new school year

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal (center) joins city and public safety officials at a press conference on Friday, September 2.
Mariano Avila

This week will see the return of nearly 17,000 students and a couple thousand staffers on the road.

That's according to Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, who issued a call to citizens to stay focused on safety.

"We have a lot of construction going on. And so I want people to leave early, slow down," she says. "We can tell our kids not to run in the street, but you know what we’ve got little ones. They’re going to be excited to see their friends, they’re excited to see their teacher.

"We’ve all been through school and we know what that’s like."

Driving speeds aside, Weatherall Neal warns drivers against other distractions.

"We are talking people on bikes, walking, the buses, any form of transportation, we want you to be aware. Be aware of the children moving around the city," she says. "Stay off your cell phones. Don’t text. Pay attention."

Echoing that sentiment, Grand Rapids Police Department Chief David Rahinsky says parents and residents should focus on cross walks, school buses and speeds in areas that have been quiet throughout the summer.

"Grand Rapids Police Department will have an enhanced presence the first few days of school, to help remind drivers that they need to be more cautious," he says. "Our most valuable resource - 17,000 of them - will be starting school on Tuesday."

In Grand Rapids, people are also putting up lawn signs in residential and school districts that read: 'Please drive like your kids live here'.

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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