MANATEE -- Monday is the first day of public school in Manatee County.
That means one thing to a dedicated Manatee County educator.
Barbara Harvey, a former teacher and now a Manatee County School Board member, will transform into "Street Rider," driving the Manatee County streets all day long in her black Lincoln Navigator looking for students who may need a helping hand.
Although Harvey doesn't wear a superhero costume, many children have come to recognize her vehicle from 14 years of first-day school journeys all over the county.
"I just ride," Harvey said Sunday. "I clear my schedule totally on the first day of school. I go west, east and north and south. I never put the kids in my car. I'm just there to help."
Last year she came upon children in Ellenton who had
missed the bus. She helped rescue the students.
She also has school supplies in the car such as backpacks, paper and pencils donated by the American Association of University Women.
The "Street Rider" always also has a supply of water and Lunchables, not to mention a cell phone parents can call for first-day support.
"Parents who need help should call the school first, but then they can call me at 941-592-3669," Harvey said.
Harvey's mission also has a serious side.
Students who may have never walked or ridden a bike to school before can do unpredictable things Monday, she said.
"I want to tell everyone getting into a car Monday to remember that these are all our children and to treat them as you would treat a child who lives in your home," Harvey said.
"Many of these children are walking or riding their bikes to school for the first time and we must remember we are the adults. Children are not always predictable. You don't know where they might go."
Sheriff Tom Knight of Sarasota offers five safety tips motorists should follow during the school year:
Adults who drive children to school should leave early to avoid the rush.
All motorists should watch for children in school zones and on nearby streets.
Vehicles must stop for all school buses when the stop sign is out and lights are flashing. This is true even if the bus is on the opposite side of the street unless a median more than 4 feet wide divides the road.
Teach children to catchthe eye of drivers whenwalking in front of a school bus.
Always drive slowly in school zones and pay close attention to crossing guards.
Failure to heed these rules is costly. Fines are steep for speeding in a school zone.
Driving up to 9 mph over the posted limit in a school zone in Sarasota, for instance, brings a $156 fine, Knight said.
Fines go up to $456 for traveling 20 mph over the limit, and there is a mandatory court appearance for going 30 mph or more over the speed limit.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.