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Complaints Prompt NMS to Change Walking Policy

Newtown Middle School students now must have a note from their parents in order to walk and hang out in the center of town.

Newtown Middle School officials now are requiring students, who want to hang out with friends in the center of town after school rather than ride the bus home or be picked up, to obtain a signed note from their parents granting them permission, according to an e-mail sent late Thursday.

"Our community members have been contacting me all week because several groups of our students avoided near-misses with motorists, as they excitedly darted across the streets to see friends," middle school Principal Diane Sherlock said in an email sent to parents. "The previous week we had a serious police incident. This situation is an exceedingly dangerous one, and I am afraid if we do not take this sitatuion seriously, we will all be dealing with a tragedy."

The school has had a long standing practice of allowing students to be "walkers" on Friday, which has encouraged throngs of seventh and eighth graders to hang out in the center of town.

A couple of weeks ago, among several middle and high school students, which led to arrests of juveniles. Last Friday, more than 300 students remained in the center of town, according to Sherlock.

The change in practice to now require a note from students who want to remain in the center of town brings the Friday routine in line with every other day of the week when students also must present a note before being allowed to not board a bus or be picked up by a parent or guardian, officials said.

Police said they raised the issue and discrepancy in practice to Sherlock.

Today, Sept. 23 will be the first day of the change and will not apply to students who regularly walk home from school and will be issued special laminated passes for daily use, according to the principal. Every Friday going forward, students who are not regular walkers also must present a new note from their parents or guardians granting them permission to remain in town, Sherlock said.

Sawyer September 24, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Wasted time and tax dollars spent for police to babysit in merchants parking lots for social activities!
dave T September 24, 2011 at 07:25 PM
why the hell do we spend so much tax dollars on Busses? Only thing more annoying then commuting behind an empty bus is the 50 distracted caravans behind it... They need more homework... they wanna be social, have tyhem play a sport... idle time ends in tears at that age...
Chris September 25, 2011 at 01:34 PM
This has been a Middle School tradition for years. This is a learning moment for the administration, police and students. The permission slip creates more paperwork; it is eco-unfriendly and does not address the issue. The Middle School administration through stewardship can encourage & teach the children safety and responsibility for their action. The Police department can enhance their community reputation and visibility by walking around “downtown”. For the students, this is part of the maturity evolution, they need positive reinforcement and the opportunity to learn that poor judgment has consequences. The Police department recently conducted a crosswalk enforcement project in the center of town a few weeks ago. During the two-day crosswalk enforcement, police issued ten tickets to motorists for violations. This enforcement project, aka “sting cooperation” required the resources of three officers, one motorcycle and one un-marked vehicle. Let’s use our tax dollars more effectively, eliminate the surreptitious sting operations in front of the Middle School and increase the visibility of a police presence on Friday afternoons. Allow the children to patronize the merchants and enjoy their 2+ hours of “being a kid”.
Caren Wellman September 25, 2011 at 03:07 PM
I'm going to throw something at the wall here and see if it sticks. Why can't we figure out a way to clear a trail from NMS to NYA? What would be involved clearing a path over behind RIS? Could this be a community service idea for some high school students? If the NMS closes we really don't need to spend money on sidewalks along Queen Street, and in the meantime a trail would keep kids off the roads. NYA is the perfect destination for this age group and I believe their after school fee is minimal. This age group at NYA can support Newtown Deli (located at NYA), be loud, and get some exercise and perhaps be a solution that is a win win for all.
Sam Mihailoff September 25, 2011 at 05:01 PM
ok, school is now also responsible for walking safety for the tweens. store owners should embrace the volumes en masse patronage of the one pack of gum purchased and the numerous half-consumed bags of chips left on the shelves, motorists should assume the entire roadway around Queen and Church Hill in a half-mile radius is one giant crosswalk....GOTCHA!!! Great thinking

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