Thousands of students from preschool to 12th grade are starting school this week and next week in Adams County, increasing road and foot traffic during morning school drop-off and afternoon pick-up.
The increased traffic from vehicles and pedestrians means more caution should be exercised to reduce the chance of a crash.
Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Schneider and Adams Central Elementary administrative assistant Michelle Bohlen both asked drivers to be patient during peak traffic times.
“Whenever you have hundreds of people going to the same place at the same time, it can get crowded,” Schneider said.
This means planning in extra time to get to a destination and slowing down in school zones.
Schneider asks those driving through a school area or picking up students to be careful during pick-up and drop-off times. He said normally the traffic around schools clear out in about 10-15 minutes, with some extra time at the high school.
Schneider also asked students walking or riding bicycles to be cautious going home, especially at intersections. Crossing guards will be present along some streets around schools, but intersections further from the school may not be guarded. Parents also can help kids find safer routes that have sidewalks and avoid busier streets.
Adams Central Elementary School implemented a parent pickup procedure last year and is continuing the system this year. Drivers will have a car tag in their windows that has the name of the kids they are picking up. When the parent arrives, kids will be released.
Students aren’t able to walk or bike home from the elementary.
Bohlen recommends that parents show up a little late to pick up their kids to help spread out when traffic arrives.
“If you come five minutes later, usually you are going to miss a lot of the traffic,” she said. “At the beginning of the school year, everyone wants to get here early. It’s OK to be here 5-10 minutes late.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends drivers should remain attentive when children are present and follow school zone signage, slowing down to an appropriate speed when children are present.
Slowing down reduces the distance a driver travels when perceiving and reacting to a bicycle or kid entering a street and the distance it takes for a car to brake. It takes about 1.5 seconds to perceive a threat then react; a car going 30 mph will cover 76 feet in that time, before the car even begins to slow down.
In addition to following traffic laws, NHTSA also provides tips for kids, parents, bikers and drivers to make sure everyone stays safe. NHTSA emphasizes that drivers and pedestrians keep eyes off their phones and on the road.
The NHTSA recommends using sidewalks when possible, or walking on the edge of the street facing traffic if there is no sidewalk. Parents also should remind kids to look left-right-left before crossing a street or intersection.
The NHTSA said the majority of school transportation-related crashes occur around buses, when someone is either walking, waiting, biking or in another vehicle. Students should wait at least five feet away from the curb, wait for the doors to open to get on the bus and should only walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus, never behind.
NHTSA say when the stop sign extends from the bus and flashes, drivers going both directions need to stop, leaving at least 20 feet in between the bus. This leaves enough space for kids to cross the street to get on or off the bus. Drivers should then remain stopped until the bus begins to move again.
Drivers also should look for children when backing out of a parking spot.
The NHTSA recommends children under 10 years old should be accompanied by an adult.
Adam Central High School and Hastings Public Schools began Aug. 14, while Hastings Catholic School begins Aug. 16.
After a summer full of moisture and storms, the Adams County Department of Roads is looking for assistance from local farmers.
“In driving around the county we have some real weed and tall grass issues,” Highway Superintendent Dawn Miller said.
Landowners are required by statute to mow at least twice a year along all ditches and roadways.
Adams County is especially in need of mowing along ditches right now.
County road crews typically only mow along gravel roads in the late fall, in preparation for snow.
With county road personnel dispatched to make repairs at a few different sites, however, there isn’t the availability there to mow.
Miller said a lot of the farmers go around and mow the ends of their fields in preparation for harvest.
“While they’re doing so, I’m encouraging them to mow up to the edge of the road because we just don’t have time to do it,” she said. “It’s going to help everybody out for harvest, traffic and winter preparations.”
Hastings already has seen about 6 ½ more inches of precipitation this year than during the same period in 2018. Other parts of the county have received even more rain.
“Because of the extra moisture we’ve had everything is still green and growing as we speak,” Miller said.
New weeds are emerging.
“They’re growing profusely,” she said.
She’s noticed farmers baling ditch grass.
“Hey, if they want to do that that’s fine too,” she said.
Approval from the state is needed to put up hay bales along state highways, but that can be done any time along local roads.
“We don’t encourage them to leave (the bales) there by any means because not only in case they would walk away, but also because of safety and closeness to the roadway,” Miller said.
The focus for the Adams County Department of Roads right now is getting every possible county road open before harvest starts.
“Up here in the northern area and also on the east side of the county, they’re not seeing the damage we have,” she said.
The county is behind in day-to-day maintenance.
“We apologize for that, but we’re just trying to get roads open,” she said.
Southwest Adams County was hit particularly hard July 9.
“We are hauling dirt down there to get those roads open,” Miller said. “Some of them are drivable. Some are not.”
There are eight miles of road still closed in southwest Adams County.
“We chucked our whole one-year plan for culvert installations and things like that because we’ve been focusing on just damage,” Miller said. “Now we’re doing bridge inspection and we’ve closed two bridges as a result.”
One of those bridges is on Oregon Trail Road between Marian Road and Persimmon Avenue, over 32 Mile Creek. The other closed bridge is on Osage Avenue, south of Oak Ridge Road, also over 32 mile Creek.
Both of those bridges are on the county’s six-year plan.
“Funds have got to be found,” she said.
In fact, a bridge under construction that was started last winter — on Sundown Road, west of Showboat Boulevard and east of Palomino Avenue, in southeast Adams County — is sitting with piling in the ground.
Miller said that bridge has been sitting, incomplete, for at least six months because either it’s been in a flooding situation itself or crews are working elsewhere.
Adams County is still waiting on a presidential public emergency declaration to be reimbursed for the funds already spent on storm-related repairs.
Miller said the presidential emergency declaration was extended in 29 Nebraska counties for individual assistance, but the public assistance hasn’t been announced yet.
“We need that public assistance to come for July,” she said. “Otherwise, all the work we’re doing right now is not refundable.”
Adams County already has spent more than $500,000 on storm repairs.
“We’re going to have to cut projects, that’s all there is to it,” Miller said of future, planned work if Adams County isn’t reimbursed.
She values the public’s cooperation and patience.
“They’re seeing the lack of maintenance, but they’ve been understanding,” she said. “I appreciate that.”