Time for school buses and school zones

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

I annually give my pet peeves about the start of school. This year, the death of Bobby Thomson postponed my column as I replaced it with one about him, but here, a couple of weeks late, it is.

First, school started a couple of weeks ago. Give the schools credit. School started two weeks before Labor Day, a rule passed by the Legislature in 2006. However, some counties such as Citrus and Sumter have opted to start two weeks earlier, using a provision in the law to apply for an exemption. That's too bad. The later starting dates, pushed by a group called “Save our Summers,” was clearly what the people wanted.

However, after a blessed summer of no school buses and no school zones, driving around again becomes a pain.

School buses appear to be a necessary evil, although I'm not sure of that. It used to be a parent's responsibility to get children to school. Somewhere along the line government took over, the way it tries to take over everything, and now the kids expect a ride, at great expense to the public, including those of us who no longer have children in school.

By the way, remember if there's a divider down the middle of a road, you don't have to stop for a bus in the opposite direction. But, there must be a divider. A four-lane road, even with a fifth lane in the middle for turns, doesn't qualify. If there's no concrete divider or grass median, you must stop.

One reason why school buses are necessary is that our illustrious school system builds its schools in the most out-of-the-way places it can find. I can remember when I was a child, we would have days when we would walk as a class to do something special in town, or perhaps go to the library, or walk to the train station for a science-type class, etc. Now, our elementary school children really have nothing to walk to. Just take a look at the locations of Hammett Bowen and Dunnellon elementary schools.

But that brings up my second pet peeve. When they build a school, they automatically put a traffic school zone around it, even if no child can possibly be walking to that school. Have you ever encountered someone walking to West Port High on 80th Avenue? I doubt it. Yet there's a school zone there, even though there's a traffic light to get traffic from the side street at the school onto 80th.

There's one other thing. We've all heard what a strain it is to be on the schools because the class size amendment takes effect. Where have these school officials been? How long has it been since that amendment was adopted? Eight years? Nice planning, school officials. This should have been a seamless transition, but all we see is the wringing of hands and people telling us how bad it's going to be.

As in the school starting dates, the school system should follow the will of the people, not look for ways to get around it.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at editor@smcitizen.com or at 352-854-3986.