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Back-to-School for the Community

Tanya Koonce
Peoria Public Radio

Most kids are heading back to school today and tomorrow. Though Pekin Public Schools start Monday and Morton and Washington Schools are already back in session.

Between what some see as obligatory Facebook-kid photos, the backpacks and all the school supplies, the youngsters at Franklin Primary School on Columbia Terrace were greeted a little differently by their community.

Many of neighborhood children arrived with a parent in tow, largely moms and grandmothers. They were greeted by Franklin staff, and what was referred to as 100 Black Men.

Frank Livingston, a grandfatherly character, says he attended to support his friend, a third grader on his first day back to school. “He’s a good student and I don’t want him to think I don’t care. He might think if I don’t care, he don’t have to care. (chuckles) So I just want him to see me. I haven’t seen him for a few days anyway.”

Retirees and others including uniformed police and firemen lined the sidewalk. Terry Burnside says it’s important for the children to see men and specifically black men. “Just to have a male figure present. I see a lot of children coming up with their mothers, you know single parents, grandmothers, but not many black men are bringing their children to school. So I think it’s imperative that we be here in support of that.”    

Burnside says he was with a group that started the morning at 7:00a.m. at the Valley Park Shell Gas Station to make sure they could support any Roosevelt students walking from River West, Greenwood Estates and CityScape. The District cut its transportation budget, and with it, bus service in that area. But recently the district restored those bus stops for the entire year.

The Illinois State Police are also weighing in on back to school. They are encouraging motorist to remember the rules of the road as K-12 students start a new school year.

ISP Colonel Tad Williams says back to school means more pedestrians, buses and cars around schools. He says the 20 mph school speed zone is enforced from 7a.m. to 4p.m. on normal school days. The reduced speed is to allow for more time to correct should it be needed.

Col. Williams says people will also be making more stops for pedestrian crosswalks, and stopped school buses with flashing lights and extended stop sign.