An article in the July 19 issue of The Scotsman says that Scottish parliament members are considering "no-car zones" around schools. The idea is still in the discussion phase, and so there are no details, but the government would ban cars from around schools at certain times of the day. The intention is to encourage children to walk or cycle to school. It would be done in conjunction with cycle routes. By contrast, England has been encouraging "park and stride", voluntary programs to encourage the same thing: get kids walking or cycling to school as a way to lower child obesity.
It absolutely shocked me how many kids around Monroe are driven to school each day, either by parents or by school bus. It's an accepted part of life that kids will be driven to school. There is a semi-circular drive in front of Logan's school that acts as a "kiss and ride". We drop Logan off, but that's because he has to be in class before 7:50 a.m. and we're driving past there anyway.
Logan's school is about a kilometre from our apartment. I checked Google Maps and found that the distance from our apartment to Woodcrest Public School in Oshawa, ON, the school I attended from grade 2 to 6, was also about a kilometre distant. (This surprised me; I remember the walk as being much longer.) Not only did I walk that distance for five years (sometimes riding a bike when I got older, but through snow in the winter), I did it twice a day. I always went home for lunch. Very few kids got rides to school. There was a "safety patrol" that helped the younger kids crossing the road. When I went to Ridgeway Senior Public School for grade 7 the distance increased to 1.6 km, or a mile. We moved before grade 8, reducing the distance to Ridgeway to about 1.4 km. I rode my bike to Ridgeway whenever I could (meaning September to November, and April to June).
The Scotsman article says that some 22% of kids in Scotland are driven to school. I'm sure the percentage in Monroe, LA is much, much higher. It's pretty much a given that kids are driven to school. This just floored me. It's not something the American media grabs hold of when they talk about childhood obesity, but it has to be a factor.
It certainly floored me when I first saw all the cars dropping kids off. It floored me even more to learn that the school bus picked up kids where we lived. I asked Alana why kids didn't just walk to school. She looked at me like I was talking in a foreign language.
Not having had a child in Toronto, I'm not certain how kids get to school. My friends Chris and Liza had a problem with cars outside their house (they live across from the school) but most kids in the neighbourhood walk. Likewise, I lived across from a school and it looked like most kids walked there. The bike rack was always full, suggesting a large number of kids riding their bikes. I remember a ton of bikes in the Ridgeway bike rack.
I think the shift away from letting kids walk home changed in the 1980s. I seem to remember an increased awareness of child predators and safety issues with regard to kids walking to school. There's also the move to both parents working. Our mornings are incredibly busy. We drive Logan to school not only because we drive past the school anyway, and not only because until late last year he still wanted one of us to walk to his class with him, but because we'd have to wake up half an hour earlier to get him up earlier and off to school in time.
Speaking of school lunches, Alana remembers always eating lunch at school. Logan eats lunch at school. When he first started going and I was out of work I asked her if she wanted me to take him home for lunch. She just looked at me funny (that foreign language thing again). It was then that I discovered that kids are just assumed to eat lunch at school, and that schools frown on kids leaving once they get there. Mind you, they only have about half an hour for lunch and the young kids eat around 10:30 (with a snack in the afternoon), so it's not very practical taking them home for lunch.
By contrast, we had an hour for lunch. Neither Woodcrest nor Ridgeway had a cafeteria. Kids eating at school ate bagged lunches on benches in the gymnasium. I think that's all changed now. I remember Woodcrest getting a big expansion, including a cafeteria. At the time, though, the only school I went to that had a cafeteria was the high school, McLaughlin Collegiate and Vocational Institute. Even then I only ate lunch there a handful of times. By that time we lived right behind the school. The school clocks were always a little bit slow (or ours were always fast); I could climb the back fence and walk to school such that the time I left was later than the time I arrived!
4 Good Years
9 months ago