Walkers and Riders May Leave Now

When I started elementary school, I attended the local public school which was within walking distance.

From what I can remember (it was 1979, so it’s a little fuzzy), everybody walked. I don’t even remember a parking lot or car pool line routine — I remember running out of the building, and finding my mom standing on the sidewalk under a particular tree. I also don’t remember it ever raining or snowing, so I’m sure there are more details I’m forgetting. But the point is this — I started my schooling career attending a neighborhood school, walking there most days. I even remember that by second grade, I was walking with a group of kids, and I don’t think there were any grown ups chaperoning!

In the third grade, we moved to an area that was incredibly spread out, and there was NOTHING within walking distance. We did walk to the bus stop every day (our neighborhood wasn’t big enough to justify the school bus driving through it), and kids who lived “in town” did walk to school.  As a matter of fact, there were two dismissals at my second elementary school — the first one, where the secretary announced “Walkers and Riders may leave now”  (meaning kids who could walk, and kids who got picked up by parents) and then a second one for the bus riders. When “Walkers and Riders may leave now” was announced, children proceeded out the school doors and into the great vast world. You either started on your walk home, or you scanned one of the three areas where your car ride might be waiting. There were no carline formations or teachers outside to check to see if you got picked up by the right grown up — as far as I know, no one ever was kidnapped during dismissal.

Flash forward thirty years, and walking to school (or really, anywhere)  is no longer the norm, especially in suburbia. A local community here in Central Indiana even petitioned to have bus service reinstated for children living within walking distance of the school because of the “potential dangers of retention ponds”. As school budgets tighten, more districts may just have to trim their transportation budgets and go back to the days of “safety patrols” (remember those ‘big kids” who would help you cross the street?) so kids can walk to and from school without incident. Here in Indiana, weather is also a factor — as the days grow colder and darker, safe, well-lit walking routes are definitely an issue (I’m not buying the retention pond argument, sorry).

My daughter’s school is 8 miles away via highway, so it’s not a feasible distance to bicycle with two small children. In fact, like most private schools in our area, there is no bus service, which means that each child is transported by their own private car. Surely the environmental impact is a big one, with everyone lining up, engines running, in car line formation. [Fortunately, the school is able to be green in other ways — the children compost, recycle and use regular dishes and glasses (not disposable), so other resources are able to be conserved.]  Children are put into the cars by teachers, and identification is checked if anyone not familiar is sent on a pick up mission. Sometimes I wish it was 1979 again.

If you are able to walk or bike to school, Clorox Green Works has started a program aimed at encouraging families to do just that. Did you know that October is International Walk to School month? In honor of this, Clorox has set up special program to benefit families and their schools — you can check it out on Clorox Green Works’ Facebook Page.There you can register to log your steps, and the top five schools with the most participation will be eligible to win a $5000 grant.

Were you a Walker, A Rider or a Bussed Student back in the day? What do your kids do now?

Disclosure: “I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Clorox GreenWorks and received a $30 thank-you gift certificate.” (the idyllic memory of walking to school unattended is all mine)

2 Replies to “Walkers and Riders May Leave Now”

  1. How sadly, times have changed. I walked to Elementary school, BY MYSELF WITH MY YOUNGER SISTER, 3 blocks (NOTuphil both ways barefoot, but in ’79, definitely through 3 feet of snow!). In middle school, we crossed 2 very busy streets and walked or rode bikes 7+ blocks. The bus was for the nerds in high school, as far as we were concerned. My friends and I all had stay-at-home parents who could drive us to school until the first of us got the license to carpool.

    But we lived in town, where we had safe neighborhoods and sidewalks and safety patrols.

    Last week, a local elementary here was hit by tragedy. Slightly out in the country, where there were NO sidewalks, a child was hit and killed while walking to school. He was at the school. Hit by a teacher who was well aware that it was a time when children would be present. Another was seriously injured in the same accident. It was just that – an accident.

    And I remember thinking a few days ago, “Who would let their child walk down that road to school???” Because there are no sidewalks, and the high school junior was walking with the 2nd and 6th grader. Just the same way we used to, years ago…..

    1. Oh Stork, that breaks my heart. How absolutely awful. It’s accidents like that that make me want to keep my kids in carseats and within arm’s reach at all times….but then they’d never know how to cross the street themselves. SO HARD.

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