After what seemed to be a really short summer, another school year is upon us. Our School Resource Officer Ryan Schneider is attending school staff training this week, crosswalks are painted, and the crossing guards have their gear. Police departments often get asked what safety advice we have for back to school time. There will be a lot of news stories and Facebook posts from police departments with their annual information. I could probably parrot the same information for you. However, when I think about back to school in the City of Milton, two words keep coming to mind for me: practice patience.
At the risk of sounding like a grumbling old man, back when I went to school, I walked or rode my bike a half mile to and from school every day. It wasn’t uphill both ways, but some days it felt like it. Car rides to school were a rarity, unless the weather was pretty bad. Even in my high school years, I walked more than I drove. Fast forward a handful of decades and it seems we don’t have near the number of walkers anymore. I’ve never done any precise research on this and it really is just a personal opinion. However, our crossing guards have also told us that their numbers of kids they’ve crossed has decreased over the past few years.
All of our kids are still getting to school, but now many of them are arriving in cars. This is not a critique or condemnation for those who drive their kids to and from school. Folks have valid reasons for doing so and I will not criticize them for it. However, for Milton especially, more cars at school time creates challenges as we manage traffic in the community. All of our schools in the City of Milton are within a mile radius of each other. Except for the high school, they also sit on or just off of Highway 59. These dynamics combine to create periods of traffic and parking congestion.
Both the school district and the city have tried to help. Parking has been added to two elementary schools and suggested traffic flow at the schools has been explained to parents. It helps, but only provides incremental improvements. Many folks ask us for a stronger police presence at all of the schools at drop off and pick up times. The reality for us, though, is that we get this request at all five schools in the city and we will at most have two patrol officers working at that time. Even then, our squads are slowed by the congestion just as the rest of the traffic. That is also assuming that they are not working on other calls at the time.
This returns me to those two words: practice patience. Whether you have kids to drop off or not, accept that it will simply take more time to get around town during drop off and pick up. If you aren’t taxiing children and can avoid the problem altogether, either by picking different routes or not driving through those times of day, that helps too. Thankfully, the congested times are relatively short. As one of my colleagues likes to state, this is only a 30-minute issue twice a day.
Here’s to a fantastic 2019-2020 school year. As we tell our kids, be kind, follow the rules and practice patience.