PEPPERELL — As the first day of school approaches, Pepperell Police Chief David Scott, Townsend Police Chief Erving Marshall and Ashby Acting Chief Fred Alden would like to recommend several safety procedures to ensure a successful academic year.

The first day of school for students in grades one through twelve in the North Middlesex Regional School District is Aug. 31. Kindergartners and Pre-K start on Sept. 2.

“With school opening this month, we know this is an exciting time for families,” Chief Scott said. “To make the transition from summer vacation into the classroom as smooth as possible, we hope that community members will be cognizant while on the road and while in school zones.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) reports that approximately 400,000 students in the state are transported to school by buses every year. While school bus travel is generally very safe, the majority of related injuries occur when boarding or exiting a bus because of passing traffic or due to walking in one of the bus driver’s blind spots. Children ages 4 to 7 are at the highest risk of injury.

Police recommend that parents follow safety procedures outlined by DPH to prevent accidents this school season.

* Before crossing the street, teach young children to take five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus and to wait for the driver’s signal before walking. Wait for the “walk” signal at a crosswalk, or for a crossing guard to signal the OK to proceed into the street.

* Develop appropriate bus pick-up/drop-off policies.

* Closely supervise children under age 10 who must cross the street after exiting the bus.

“We ask that parents and guardians please take a moment to review these tips with their children, especially those beginning in the school district for the first time, and the younger students in elementary school,” Chief Marshall said. “We want to make sure children’s trips to and from school are as safe as possible.”

North Middlesex Regional School District utilizes several van pool transportation vehicles that serve as school buses for special education students. The vans are as, if not more, common than the typical yellow school buses. Police remind residents to please be on the lookout for the red vehicles and to remember to follow the same rules of the road when a school van is picking up or dropping off children.

“We know that drivers recognize yellow school buses, but given the prevalence of the van pools in our communities, we remind residents to be cautious around any vehicle with a designated school bus marking,” Chief Alden said. “Our goal is to ensure that no matter how students travel to and from school they are safe at all times.”

School zone speed limits are strictly enforced at 20 MPH. Residents should remember to yield to school buses when their lights are flashing. The fine for illegally passing a school bus is a maximum of $200, and repeat offenders may have their licenses suspended.

Chiefs Marshall, Scott and Alden also urge parents and guardians to talk to their high school students about the dangers along Rt. 119. This is especially important in the area surrounding the school, where there is an increase of traffic flow, congestion and ongoing construction. Two police officers will be added in the morning and afternoons to assist the school crossing guard during the first week of school.

For information on safety procedures, including stranger danger or pedestrian and bike safety, contact your local police department.