This post is a guest post by Anne the Regen half of RegenAxe. It is in response to another blog post that her cousin Anne also know as Banana made. I have linked to here. Anne was making a long comment on Banana’s blog, when she suggested that her writings were getting long enough for a blog post in of its self. Anne is feeling a bit under of the weather, after having picked up some kid crud after working all four schools in the district this week. So, without further ado, take it away Anne:
“Mein Gott”, as our favorite aunt Betty used to say! Things certainly have changed since we were in 1st grade. I walked to school in kindergarten and 1st grade in Grand Rapids, as well as Ann Arbor after that. In GR I think there was a girl in an older grade that walked me to school, probably to make sure I didn’t dawdle. She may have walked me home too, but I seem to remember having more adventures on the way home.
There was a gas station a block or two from school. I always had to take in a big breath there, to smell the fumes. (leaded gas, anyone?) Then down the hill, turn the corner and a block or two of small businesses, like the bakery and a five and dime store. My mother would sometimes ask me to pick something up on the way home. I remember her writing “pumpernickel” on a note for me. I just handed it to the bakery worker, as I had no idea what it said. [My adult self wonders that I would remember to do this after a whole day of school. Did she give me the note in the morning, or call the school at the end of they day?] There was also the adventure of the change and the penny candy, but I think I’ve told that story already. Then we crossed a set of railroad tracks, with the occasional train. The big boys would run across the tracks before the train, but if I saw one, I always waited. I don’t remember waiting for long freight trains, so maybe it was a small siding. After that, I think we had a few more residential blocks before reaching home. So yes, I was able to walk 4-8 blocks to the store and school.
My children usually were driven to school, then bussed over to ECC where they had after-care, and then picked up. That was the scenario, for the first few years, when Dave was still in ECC (Early Childhood Center) and Dan was at Chaney Elementary. When they were both at Chaney, I would walk with them, picking up their friend Nate along the way. I think I must have then walked over to a bus stop to ride downtown. How funny that I can remember some of my adventures from first grade so vividly, but not this.
Nowadays, as a substitute teacher, I see the end-of-day procedures for dispersing the children from the school’s point of view. Safety is paramount. Busses are on one side of the school, car pick-ups on the other. Right now, since ECC is undergoing construction, the busses come first, and fifteen minutes later the car riders line up. Kiddoes are released to their parents in an orderly fashion and checked off a list, at least at ECC. At the elementary, they don’t need the check list, but still try to maintain order. If an ECC bus rider gets to his or her stop, and there isn’t a parent there, they ride the bus back to ECC, and the parent is called. (I’m not sure if this is true for every child, or only for particular children, but I did overhear such a conversation.)
There are some walkers and bike riders at each school, but it is certainly not the majority. In an effort to encourage more to walk, the schools have implemented “walking buses”, where parents organize a group of kids along a certain route, and some of the parents walk with them. They don’t do this everyday, but I think they’re aiming for more. Our district is a small district, but it is bisected by two high-traffic streets. This, plus the ever-present, freeform paranoia of “stranger danger” is probably the reason most parents feel more comfortable if they drive their kids to school. In addition, if the parent(s) work outside of the home, it is just easier (for the parent) to drive the kids and know that they got to school.
I have read about the walking school bus before. Can’t remember where or when but I think the article I read was talking about somewhere in Europe. It seems like a wonderful idea to me but I agree that it would be hard to implement on a daily basis. Not everybody is like me, willing to walk every day in almost any kind of weather.
We car-pooled with a couple of neighbors for a while in middle school, which was just about at the edge of the walk zone. I eventually dropped it because one of those neighbors was perpetually late and I am not and so I was perpetually chomping at the bit waiting for her or her kid and wanting to get on with my day. I made Mouse ride the bus with her friend Goose but I also often drove them, mostly because I often had PTO business at the middle school. And the high school was on the GG’s way to work, so that was a no-brainer but the kids did have to bus it home. On the city bus. No school buses at Community.
I agree that we can all remember the days when we walked 8 miles each way to school through 2 feet of snow, uphill both ways but things are different these days and it’s not possible to turn back time.