By PATRICK PFANNER
Beyond learning how to share, Perkins youngsters headed into kindergarten can receive vital safety information as they ready for school life.
Safety Town, a weeklong program teaching children important safety skills, returns July 8 in Perkins. The township’s police and firefighters teach the sessions at Furry Elementary.
“It’s important for us to interact with the kids about safety,” Perkins police Chief Ken Klamar said. “We want to make a safe summer and safe environment for the kids.”
About 100 children plan to attend the free event, where they’ll learn about:
* Boarding a school bus and properly crossing the street.
* Washing hands to avoid spreading germs.
* Wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle.
* Escaping a smoke-filled room and performing the stop, drop and roll technique.
* Reacting to strangers who approach them.
It’s useful to let children interact with public safety workers, as it builds trust and openness, Perkins police Sgt., Dan McLaughlin said. If children are familiar with authorities, they’re more likely to report suspicious activity or ask for help when they need it. This will break down the shyness barrier for students and make them more comfortable speaking to police officers,” said McLaughlin, the school resource officer for Perkins Schools.
For all the positives that come with Safety Town, the program almost didn’t occur this year. Perkins officials said they needed township voters to approve a levy to generate new money for police operations. Had the levy failed, township officials may have scrapped Safety Town, as well as other services.
“(We) were very concerned about Safety Town’s future,” said Halley Leffler, Furry Elementary’s principal.
In the end, voters overwhelmingly approved May’s issue, which will generate about $1.9 million a year for the police department through 2018.
“We were very happy when we heard that levy passed,” Leffler said. “Safety Town is a program that needs to continue.”
Parents can place their children in the Safety Town program when they enlist in Perkins Schools. The program has been operating at Furry Elementary for about 10 years.
“It’s really important for the kids to see the school early,” Leffler said. “It really helps with the transition from home to school. They’ll know the building and the employees, and that can only help the kids.”