Bell rings on school year

Monday, August 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:25 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

As parents frantically search for back-to-school supplies, one of the most popular and necessary items is a backpack. What some parents fail to realize, however, is that the wrong backpack could cause their child harm.

Backpacks are the most frequently used method of carrying school supplies, but if they are worn improperly or are too heavy, a child will experience strain.

“The injuries caused from an improper backpack are mostly felt in the neck, back, and shoulders,” said Tyler Selby, a physical therapist assistant at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Children are still developing, and wearing a backpack that is too heavy can cause muscle damage and a sore back. Children also will have trouble if the backpack is too large. Parents should make sure the backpack is the right size for the child.

“The proper size is really important because a large backpack encourages overloading,” said KD Berrey, a physical therapist assistant at HealthSouth Rehabilitation in Fulton. “Many parents are now turning to wheeled bags, but again, they must not be too large for the child.”

If the backpack is too heavy, children will try to compensate by walking hunched over, Selby said. Or the backpack might be so heavy that it pulls the child backward, which creates more stress on developing bones and muscles. Physical therapists suggest that children carry no more than 10 percent to 15 percent of their body weight, Selby said.

Selby suggested that when selecting a backpack, parents should look for things such as multiple compartments, padding on the back and shoulder straps, hip and chest belts and reflective material.

Selby also said some warning signs to parents that a child’s backpack is too heavy are complaints that the backpack is uncomfortable, red marks on the child’s shoulders and tingling or numbness in the child’s arms.

To avoid problems, the child should wear the backpack no higher than the shoulders and let it rest no lower than the curve in the back.

Bus safety

When Columbia Public Schools open today, about 8,000 students will be transported to and from school by the First Student bus system.

Geoff Shackelford, director of safety for First Student, suggested a few reminders about bus safety for parents to review with their children.

First, if children have to cross the street, they should wait for the driver’s hand signal so traffic is clear. Children should stay at least six feet back and cross in front of the bus. To be seen safely, they should walk 10 feet in front of the bus. If a child drops something, he or she should notify the bus driver before picking it up and wait until the bus stops completely before attempting to get on or off.

First Student drivers must receive 10 hours of safety training per year.

School renovationis

Throughout the summer, some Columbia schools received renovations and upgrades. Chester Edwards, director of buildings for Columbia schools, said the biggest renovations were at Oakland Junior High School, which received a one-level addition with new classrooms and labs. The school also received upgrades in the principal’s office.

Jefferson Junior High School also received a new addition that included two levels of labs, classrooms and offices for support staff. The upgrades also included new windows and auditorium seats.

Russell Elementary School has a new office addition, restrooms and electrical upgrades. Grant Elementary and Benton Elementary schools are receiving new media centers and computer rooms, which are an addition to the existing library media centers. Two Mile Prairie Elementary received new carpet and restroom renovations. West Boulevard Elementary had foundation work done, an entry door replaced, north parking lot improvements and resurfacing work on the playground. Playground equipment also is being installed. Parkade Elementary replaced some of the entry doors and is installing playground equipment. Rock Bridge Elementary, Blue Ridge Elementary and Cedar Ridge Elementary received parking-lot expansions and upgrades. Blue Ridge Elementary is installing playground equipment. Smithton and Gentry middle schools replaced seven classroom trailers.

“It has been a really busy year with summer school, but a really rewarding one,” Edwards said.

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