Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Walking Home From School

Three years ago, my daughter's school changed her status from a bus rider to a walker.  We live right around the corner from the school, so it isn't far, but because there isn't a direct sidewalk to the school from our neighborhood, the kids on our street have to take circuitous route through another neighborhood, then a narrow path between that one and a third neighborhood, and then up to a crosswalk in front of the school across a busy road.  While I'm all for saving the county some money and giving the kids a chance at a little bit of exercise by walking, I am not at all happy at the route the kids have to take.  The relative safety of the bus, which took the kids from the end of our street to the end of the parking lot on the school's property, was so much better.  In addition, because the bus ride was longer in the afternoon, I actually had enough time to get home from work before my daughter got off the bus.

Now, the kids are on their own.  I'm glad they all walk together (there are about eight of them on our street), but I hate the route they are forced to walk.  The crazy thing about it is that nothing has changed from when they were bus riders to now, as walkers.  It's just an unfortunate situation.  And I barely get home before she does.  Some days, I actually have time to pull up to the school to pick her up, but, otherwise, regardless of the weather, she's on her own.

Today was one of those days where things didn't go so well.  I got stuck at work, and wasn't able to leave on time.  I've allowed my daughter to carry a cell phone that she can use for emergencies when we're apart, and I can track it and her whereabouts using its GPS function, which is very helpful and gives me a little bit of piece of mind.  Anyway, I called her when I hit the road.  She had just left the school, but none of her friends were with her.  She couldn't find them (it turned out that several had an after-school function, and another had been picked up by her parents), and that meant she would have to walk home alone.  This is one of my greatest fears, and it is all due to the ridiculous route she has to walk.  I've shared this fear with the school, but the common answer is that the kids can walk together, or I can try to arrange a carpool, or have one of the parents walk with them.  These are good ideas, but not always available as options.  Because I never want her to walk alone, I told her to see if she could wait at the school until I got there.  I hate to put the school officials in this position (as a sitter), especially since the school offer an after school program, but this was an extremely rare situation.  Fortunately, they were understanding.  I actually got to the school within 10 minutes, so there was no problem.  But I hate having to do that.  What choice do I have?

The issues with the walk are due to the narrow path between neighborhoods.  It's remote and out of sight enough that I worry about the potential for someone to cause harm to the kids, especially a child walking alone.  Another issue is that there is a "shortcut" trail through the woods between our neighborhood and the adjoining one that the kids like to use, since it cuts off a significant portion of their walk.  I've forbidden my daughter from using the trail, as it is on private property, it is not an "official" path, it is often muddy, and, frankly, it goes through the woods, where, again, anyone preying on the kids could easily hide.  I took it upon myself to explain this to the kids, but upon seeing several parents cut through the trail with the kids, I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere.  Fortunately, the kids understand that my daughter cannot use the shortcut, so at least one of them will walk with her along the proper route, which, again, takes an extra 5 minutes for them to walk.

As I said, it's an unfortunate situation.  I wish there was a better way.  In my conversations with them, other parents don't seem to be as concerned.  But as a single father, I guess I worry about a 10 year old girl walking alone along an isolated pathway.

Try to have a great evening, Folks!

No comments:

Post a Comment