With students at nine school districts around the San Gabriel Valley beginning classes this week, state and local officials are stressing the importance of driving safe, planning ahead and arriving early.

The school year officially started Monday at six school districts: Baldwin Park Unified, Bassett Unified, Bonita Unified, Rowland Unified, Walnut Valley Unified and West Covina Unified.

Glendora Unified and Pomona Unified, which serves parts of Diamond Bar, begin classes today. Hacienda La Puente Unified begin classes Wednesday.

Officer Mike Harris, a California Highway Patrol spokesman, said the possibility of heavier traffic over the next few weeks means motorists need to give themselves "ample time" to getstudents who will be attending a new campus for the first time. For example, Jellick Elementary students will attend school at the site of the now-closed Fajardo Elementary this year, while the Jellick campus undergoes construction. Similarly, Northam Elementary students will attend classes at the campus once occupied by La Seda Elementary.

And students are walking on to the campus of the new Telesis Academy for Science and Math for the first time. The Rowland Unified K-8 school opened its doors Monday on the campus of the former Rincon Intermediate.

The Office of Traffic Safety also reminded parents that children who ride bicycles to school need to wear helmets. It also suggested that they avoid using cell phones while riding.

Ward said that anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the return to school should reach out to district staff for support.

"It's emotional for kids and parents," she said. "But everyone's willing to help."

626-962-8811, ext. 2718