Stories Needed: How Do Kids Get To/From School in YOUR Town? (Wackiness Appreciated)

Hi Readers! I’m about to write a column on how kids are getting to school — with a plea for more walking or biking, when possible — and for this I need stories of kids get to school in your neighborhood. For instance, I heard from my friend that her nieces are driven by GOLF CART two blocks to the bus stop in their GATED COMMUNITY. This seemed a bit, shall we say, ridiculous. The kids are able-bodied! The community is gated! The distance is two blocks! But the mom thinks the walk is just “too risky.”

I also heard of a school in Florida where dismissal works like this: The cars line up, single file, outside the school where there are NO children outside. As a car reaches the front of the line, a school aide reads the name on the dashboard plaque issued by the school and barks into her walkie talkie, “Jeremy’s mom is here!”  At which point someone inside the school shouts, “Jeremy! Your mom is here!” And Jeremy is ESCORTED OUT to the waiting car — like an unpopular dictator being hustled into his limo.  Jeremy’s mom careens off and the process begins again, with the next car and kid. Dismissal takes half an hour.

And, finally, if this is happening in your neighborhood, I would love to hear about it:  Is it hearsay or the truth that in some school districts, the bus no longer stops at bus stops but now actually stops at each child’s home? And that some parents drive the child from the garage down to the sidewalk in front of their house to wait?

Please tell me what strange new things are happening in your neighborhood, vis a vis getting to school, including whether kids are even ALLOWED by the school to bike or walk. Thanks!

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237 Responses to Stories Needed: How Do Kids Get To/From School in YOUR Town? (Wackiness Appreciated)

  1. Greg August 31, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    We are fortunate to live in a small borough with its own school system. The borough itself is roughly a mile square, so most kids walk, except for those on the farthest end, which is across a major roadway. The wacky neighbors across the street consistently drive their kids…across the street. Seriously. It is literally 250 yards from their house to the school. Sure, up the hill a bit, but an entirely line-of-sight walk. They could sit on their porch and — without the aid of binoculars, mind you — watch their kids go to school. Instead, they pile them into the minivan.

  2. Rachel August 31, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Well, I’m happy to report that because of budget cuts in our county, the bus system is making fewer stops and the children may have to walk up to half a mile to get to their stop. They’ve been playing announcements on the radio for the past two months…I guess in order to get parents mentally prepared (or so they can arrange a golf cart hee hee).

  3. Jennifer Merck August 31, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    In our town (Wheaton, IL), there is a lot of variety of how kids get to school. I am embarrassed to say that I found myself driving my elementary kids to school often last year. But it had nothing to do with safety. We’re just often running late!

    That said, we are exerting considerable effort this year toward walking to school. For now, I’ve been with my 5th and 3rd grader, but again, nit or safety reasons. I’m just finding it a good time to connect and was inspired by a friend’s commitment to walk her daughter to school each day.

    Lots of kids walk near us. Lots of kids ride bikes. My kids do both and are in their own coming home after school. I don’t escort them home. The reality is that there are lots of friends and neighbors on the way. We have intentionally cultivated these relationships. It makes life richer and communities better places to be!

    My oldest is in 8th grade and the variety applies there as well. Mine rides his bike to and from each day. Lots of kids walk or ride bikes. I know of kids who walk as much as 3/4 of a mile each way (which seems funny to say — that’s not that far), but I also know Moms that drive the mile to school as well. One caveat: when 7:10 band starts later this week, I sometimes drive my 8th grader. That’s pretty darn early in our family!

    One highlight worth noting: last year, the elementary school made a policy change. For years, the rule was you had to be in 3rd grade to ride your bike. They said it was a bike space issue, but I thought it was a safety factor too. The Principal announced that anyone can ride bikes. He indicated that it was in an effort to encourage walking and riding over driving given the economy and the impact on the environment. Yay!

  4. Alison August 31, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    While I don’t have kids in the nearby school (I could almost hit it with a rock, that’s how close I am), I did see a little girl riding her bike there this morning. Of course, her dad was on his bike right behind her. But there are kids who walk, too. The younger kids seem to have a parent with them, but older elementary and middle school kids are on their own a lot.

    That said, there seem to be more parents who pick their kids up in the car at these schools than those who let their kids walk.

    (This is near downtown Lexington, Kentucky.)

  5. Stevie Taylor August 31, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    The car rider line you described is exactly how it occurs in every elementary school in our county and the counties around us. Those few parents that do allow their children to ride the school bus drive their kids to the end of the driveway. I do see older children (mine are elementary) waiting for the bus at the end of their drives by themselves. I have many friends/neighbors who are concerned that I let my 4 children get off the bus together at the end of our farm driveway b/c it cannot be seen from the house. Luckily, the horse farm down the road also lets the bus drop her kids off and she is not waiting at the end of the driveway either so I don’t feel totally ostracized! LOL!

  6. Alice August 31, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    I live in a small town and we have a good bus system. The bus does NOT stop at every house, but at corners or reasonable distances between houses; district policy is that kids in K-4 can walk up to 0.5 mile, while older kids can walk up to a mile. During winter (we are in the NE) several of the neighborhood moms do drive their kids around the block (5-6 houses?!) but it’s really so the moms can sit in the car while the kids run around outside. We do live close enough (~2.5 miles) that my kids could bike to school, and they would love to!, but the majority of the road is a two-lane state highway which passes a busy train station & through an I-95 intersection, so it is not at all a safe route for kids. I know plenty of people who drive their kids in order to give them a few extra minutes of sleep, but the majority of elementary & middle school students do ride the bus. High school is (apparently) a different story…..very NOT cool to be seen on the bus so they all drive themselves or insist parents give them a ride.

  7. Erin August 31, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    Regarding the pick up protocol — the dashboard sign, walkie talkie, escorted to vehicle scenario is pretty standard in my area. We’ve lived in two different school districts here in NC and that was in place for both. My impression is it has more to do with making sure no child gets hit by one of the waiting cars than making sure no child is abducted. It keeps the kids from wandering into traffic or running around to the wrong side of the car, but there isn’t any checking of IDs or anything to ensure the person with the dashboard sign is really the person who should be picking up the child, so I’m not sure anyone is particularly worried about that. This also seems primarily in place in the elementary schools, where the kids are small enough that they are harder to see from inside the Minivans and SUVs and therefore more at risk of being hit.

  8. Katy August 31, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Kids aren’t allowed to walk until they’re in Primary 4 (which is the equivalent of 3rd Grade in the US). I don’t think there’s a bus service for our school, so you have to personally walk or drive your kid to school.

    A child can only be picked up by an adult, so if you have a kid in Primary 6 and another in Primary 3, you still have to go pick them both up.

    I’m not sure about the older grades, but the younger ones are brought to the door, one-by-one, and the teacher won’t let them go until they see the parent there. If mom is late, then the kid is told to stand to the side until their mom arrives.

    It’s not too bad, but I do wish my kids could walk to school a little earlier. It’s a residential neighborhood with good sidewalks and crossing guards at the intersections near the school.

  9. LeighB in ATL August 31, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    We walk to school. It is a little less than a mile to school. My daughter is 7yo and I may in future let her walk by herself, but the 4-lane road is a bit too busy for me to feel comfortable with her crossing alone just yet. We have also enlisted another mom and her two daughters to walk with us. All our kids get to sleep in a little longer and we get some exercise and chat. We are also going to do a 5K walk as a family in November, so now I’m reminding her that this is training for our upcoming walk.

    While there are still two bus stops in our neighborhood for elementary schoolers, budget cuts reduced the number of bus stops to one for middle and high school, so some kids have to walk a quarter mile or so to the bus stop. Most of them are allowed to do so alone, but there are a couple of parents who still insist on driving the two tenths of a mile and waiting with them. But one of them is the mom who thinks that she cannot let her THREE kids (aged 13, 9 and 6) play outside together without her constant supervision because she heard there were sex offenders at a hotel 3 miles away. Go figure.

  10. Julia August 31, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    I drop my daughter of at school everyday because I choose to put her in a school that is a few blocks from where I work instead of the one she would go to if she took the bus because it is in a meth infested hell hole, and we live ten miles from the school she goes to so she can’t walk. Last year I was about two blocks from her school behind a school bus when it stopped to pick up a kid whose mom was waiting outside with him. I couldn’t believe that she put her kid on the bus instead of walking him to the school two blocks away. (He was probably going for preschool, he was a little guy, so I understand not having him walk by himself but riding the bus?)

    I actually park on a side street and let my daughter out. She is 6 and sometimes she wants to walk by herself to the crossing and other times she wants me to walk with her.

    If we lived where she could ride the bus to the school I want her to attend I would probably let her since I always rode the bus when I was little.

  11. Catherine Keene August 31, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    At my son’s school, we do something similar, although it’s been tweaked to make the process flow better. At dismissal time, all students go to the gym and wait for their rides. Cars enter the property behind the school, where the gym is, and we hand off our name placard to a teacher/assistant. The placards then make it inside the gym where names are called out in the order the cards were received as parents arrived. A group of kids will head outside once they have a handful, each with their respective name cards. Children identify their own rides and a teacher (usually there are 5 or so stationed around the drop-off/pick-up circle) make sure the kids get to their cars safely. No children leave the gym until a parent/guardian is there on school property. If you don’t have a name card, you have to park and go into the office. For our school, they start dismissing at 2:45 – I try to get there at 3:00 after it’s cleared out some. They are usually most of the way done by then.

    Now the vast majority of the students at my son’s school are car riders. His school only offers shuttles to certain areas (we are a charter school – no public buses for us!). I don’t know a better way to handle dismissal without it being an even larger headache than it is now. I couldn’t imagine if all 200-something car riders were standing outside waiting for their rides to get there. Our school is also K-8 grade. I think using the gym to contain the children is a good safety measure. As someone above me stated, it’s sometimes hard to see the little 5 year old kiddies who may be outside. Also, the teachers and school workers end up knowing which kid goes to which car rather quickly. If something seemed odd about who was picking up a child, I believe the school would be able to handle it.

    We don’t live in an area where walking to school is an option. The school, while close to city limits, is actually in a pretty rural area, with several farms close by. The dismissal process is pretty similar to how we were dismissed when I started kindergarten back in 1983. Again, I lived in a rural area, and if I had taken the bus it would have taken me an hour and a half to get home instead of the 5 minutes it took when my stay-at-home-mother picked me up herself.

  12. Tom Comeau August 31, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    About two-thirds of our kids (Howard County, Maryland) ride the bus. Kids are classified as “walkers” if they are within an age-variant ring (.5 miles for elementary, up to a mile for high school) and they don’t have to cross a “secondary arterial” which are roads that carry a lot of traffic, and usually don’t have crosswalks.

    For elementary kids, the bus stops more frequently. Rarely would a bussed kid walk a whole block. By high school, they walk 1-4 blocks. The route planners are allowed to make a kid walk .4 miles to a bus, but usually the route coverage makes it much shorter anyway.

    Some “overprotective” parents drive walkers to school, particularly when it rains. Parent volunteers help prevent cars from driving behind the busses until all the bus kids are loaded or unloaded, and then work at slowing down traffic in the pickup/drop off zone. Kids are responsible for finding their own parents, though the younger ones get help from staff and the older ones.

    For elementary kids, if a kid is left over – missed the bus or didn’t get picked up – the staff phone the parents and the parents are expected to come get them. Middle and high school kids are generally speaking on their own, and can either call parents themselves (often on cell phones) or walk home.

    Bikes are also encouraged, with good racks at many schools, though I rarely see kids on bikes going to and from school.

    Systemwide, I think the attitude is based on real data about transportation safety. The safest way to get to school is either walking (if you don’t have to fight traffic) or on a school bus (if you do.) Younger kids there is a lean toward more supervision, often with help from the older kids, particularly putting 5th graders in charge of K-3 kids getting on busses.

    I find it interesting that giving older kids real authority also seems to reduce the bullying somewhat. It’s still a persistent problem, particularly on busses, but “de jure” authority comes with responsibility, which seems to help. That’s anecdotal, though. I’ve never seen a good study on that question.

  13. AnnieKy August 31, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    The Florida school where unpopular dictators are hustled out one by one to awaiting limos is the school my 3 unpopular dictator nephews attend. The dismissal system is exactly as you described. If we’re not talking the same school, the odds tell me there are many more Florida schools using this method.
    My grandson’s school in Louisville uses a similar system – the difference being numbers are used on the cars instead of names. He is driven to & from school by his parents – due to busing/desegregation laws mandating he go to school 16 miles from home, even though there is a school less than 2 blocks from his front door. Even with parental pickup, he doesn’t arrive home until 5pm.

  14. Christine August 31, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    Our bus driver is our neighbor, and she parks the bus in her driveway. We live on the corner, so the first stop is our house. All the neighborhood kids stand in our yard. (where they frequently drop empty pudding cups from their lunch, but that’s another topic entirely)

    It’s about 2 miles to the school. Walkable, except that the last mile goes over a long narrow bridge, with no safe place to walk. Especially when there are buses using the same bridge. I know of no rule against walking, but I don’t see anyone doing it. The high school is before that bridge, and I see high school kids walking. The elementary and middle schools are over the bridge, and along a narrow windy country road. I go for a run after DS gets on the bus, and I won’t even use that road.

  15. Stephanie August 31, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    We live close to our daughter’s elementary (bus service is not offered if you are within 2 miles of the school). Many of the children walk/ride their bikes and crossing guards are posted at the major intersections surrounding the schools. I drive my daughter to school–the road we live on does not have sidewalks and is a popular cut-through, so many of the drivers speed through. She will have the option to walk when she gets older though.

    Pick-up: We have a system similiar to the Florida system you mentioned. Our school has limited parking, so parents pull into a waiting line that starts to form about 10 minutes before dismissal. As you pull in, you tell a volunteer on a walkie-talkie your child’s name (or, if you are a regular, she just knows you after a couple of weeks). Your child is sent out, but not escorted to the car. We also have a group of student volunteers (4th and 5th graders) who open the car doors and help any of the little children who might have trouble finding their parents.

  16. Mary Fran August 31, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    I am pleased to say we live in a relatively free-range town, from 3rd grade on. It’s a small town, so we have one school for K-2, one for 3-5, and then 6-12 in the Middle/High.

    For K-2, if the kids are within walking distance, they may walk with a parent (any parent) and the “walkers” are dismissed first. If you are a “pick-up”, your child must have a note saying they aren’t riding the bus. the pick up line is as you said, but 10 cars at a time go into the circle, and the kids are lined up in order and walk themselves to the car. It still take a long time, so my kids generally ride the bus (we live 4 miles from school).

    Then, in 3rd grade, there is a magic switch to the next school. The kids can walk/bike by themselves (parent discretion – I have to say, most of the kids do). And if you’re waiting in the pick-up line for a younger sibling – the two schools are on the same campus – the kids can walk up to meet you. The 3-5 school starts and ends 40 mins earlier. I was sending my oldest with a note on those pick-up days, until he told me that the teacher didn’t even look at them. They trust the kids to know whether or not they are riding the bus. Imagine that? And we’ve been here three years and haven’t heard of a kid not making it home yet.

    The kids in town ride their bikes to the sailing club and pool in the summer. And they ride to the library and pretty much all around town. Age 11 and up don’t need an adult with them to go to the pool. My 9 year old is anxious to be able to ride his bike into town. I need to get over my fear of the narrow winding road along the shore he would have to take to get there.

    The bus stops are all on the main roads, with the private, winding drives, house to house pick up is not feasible. We generally wait with the kids in the morning. Only kindergarten requires a parent be there in the afternoon. I’ll admit that I drive down in bad weather- but our driveway is 1/4 mile long.

  17. Rayne of Terror August 31, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    My subdivision is shaped like an 0 with two lines across inside the 0. The children who live on the 0 get picked up at their driveway. The children who live on the cross streets walk down to the stop signs to get picked up. Last year my preK son got off at the stop sign I can see from my porch. This year I realized if my K son is dropped off at the opposite stop sign his ride would be shorter. So now he walks slightly farther but he arrives home 15 minutes earlier. Hooray!

    The school does the same thing as you describe above for car riders, but the cars are two abreast and they call kids out 8 carloads at a time. The process takes so long that riding the bus is the faster way to get home.

  18. Kim August 31, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    My son rides his bike. I ride with him because it’s good exercise for me and he likes me to ride with him, but he’ll be 9 in a few months. If he wants to ride by himself I will let him. We only live a mile or so from the school and there are sidewalks all the way. He is perfectly able to ride by himself.

    Most of the kids who go to my son’s school ride a bus or they are driven. I will drive my son if the weather is really bad, but it’s not usually bad. For pick-up, again, I ride my bike up, he jumps on his bike and we ride home together, but he could ride by himself. The rest of the kids who are car riders, are dismissed with the placard/walkie-talkie thing, but they are allowed to wait outside unless the weather is bad, in which case they wait in the library. They are not escorted out, their name is called and they go to the car. It does take forever. On the few occasions I drive my son to school, when I pick him up I park my car in the very last spot in the parking lot, closest to the exit, walk to the door and wait for him to come out. I refuse to wait in that car rider line! We are home before that line even moves!

    Riding bikes, my son leave for school 10 minutes after the bus riders and he is almost always home 15 to 20 minutes before they are. I wish more kids would bike.

    Erin, I am in NC, also. It’d be funny if we’re in the same area.

  19. Kevin M August 31, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Our buses drop their kids off in front of their house – no walking required! I know because I get stuck behind the bus every day and it makes 3 stops on our street (a small circle) instead of dropping the kids off all together at the stop sign on the main road where they would be forced to walk a few blocks to their home.

  20. Lisa C. August 31, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Our elementary school of 900 students has only a couple of buses servicing it. Most of the others are driven by parents; some walk or ride bikes (some accompanied by parents, others not). The car loop works similarly to what you described, only the waiting kids all sit with their class on the sidewalk in front of the school. There are colored stripes painted on the curb. As each car pulls up to the “checker,” the child’s name and a color are announced. The child goes to that color and the parent stops at that color to pick them up (siblings/carpool groups all go to the same color).

    We live about 2 miles from the school. I homeschool, but if my kids were going to public school they would ride their bikes.

  21. Dee August 31, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    From our subdivision, all the kids ride the bus. It’s probably about 1.5 miles to school, but the only way from our subdivision to school is down a 45 mile per hour road that has no shoulders or sidewalks, and over an Interstate overpass that is just wide enough for 2 cars. I’m an adult cyclist and I don’t feel safe enough to ride over that overpass with car traffic.

    The state needs to rebuild the overpass and I’ve heard that some plans for its rebuilding incorporate a bike path/protected pedestrian area. I hope to see that come true.

    We have two bus stops in our subdivision. The road from the 45 mile an hour street comes in and Ts into the center road of our subdivision. Stop one is there.

    If you turn left from stop one, the road goes down not quite 1/2 mile to a cul-de-sac. About half the kids on that stretch of road toward the cul-de-sac walk to stop one, about half are driven and sit in their parent’s cars until the bus comes.

    The bus actually turns right and proceeds down the center street to the far end of our subdivision, and does stop two. There’s only one family with kids attending public school at that end, so stop two is their house.

  22. gpo August 31, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    Because of the goofy school district boundaries in our area my daughter doesn’t get to go to the school that is within walking distance and on her bus ride she passes another elementary school that it too is not in our school district.

  23. Ann in L.A. August 31, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    Our school works exactly on the placard method described above. However, it’s a private school in Los Angeles, and some kids are literally going over a mountain to get to it, and some literally have to drive for an hour each way. Why their parents didn’t choose a school closer to home is the real question.

    Our commute is about 5 miles and 20 minutes. Too far for the kids to get there themselves.

  24. Dee August 31, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Oh, when our school was built (it opened 3 years ago), it was built in a location that was supposed to be “walkable” from the newest subdivisions in town. The school was supposed to be right on the edge of the new, gigantic subdivision, and be walkable from the center of town subdivision (we are on the far south edge of town).

    They had all sorts of walking/biking paths planned out to bring kids to school. And then the housing bust occurred. The school was the only thing built out there–it’s a school surrounded by corn fields. Unfortunately, it’s not even quite reasonable to walk to it from the center of town subdivision, because the bike path from there to the school has never been completed, it was part of the responsibility of the builder who went bankrupt.

  25. Mary Garner August 31, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    This is one thing that drives me insane in my neighborhood. There are probably 50 homes in my neighborhood, and out of those 50 homes, I’d say about 30 of them have school-aged children, most of whom ride buses to school. Instead of having the little darlings gather in one or two central locations to be picked up, the elementary, middle, and high school buses have to stop and each and every house to pick up each and every child. I don’t mind telling you what a pain it is to be driving and get behind any of these buses, stopping every 50 feet or so, to pick up one kid at a time.

    I want to pull my hair out! I guess it’s just TOO DANGEROUS to have them all stand in one spot together.

  26. Ann August 31, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    I just heard from a friend in Olathe, KS whose school won’t let her son ride his bike to school until he’s in third grade.

  27. Kelly August 31, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    The dismissal process at our school is very similar to the crazy situation you described. Cars have to line up single file and drive through the circle to pick up kids. A person comes up to your car and ask who you are getting, and they write it down. It is then given to teachers inside who line the kids up accordingly to file them out to be picked up. It takes FOR-EV-ER and is ridiculous.

  28. Gareth August 31, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    I live in a city, but the kids come not from just the immediate neighborhood but a large stretch of the city. Maybe half are driven to school and half take the bus. Of the kids who take the bus at my son’s stop, we are the only ones who walk there from our neighborhood, although we live the farthest away. Many parents in our neighborhood won’t let their kids take the bus or will drive them to the bus even though it’s only a few blocks (I find this strange). A very few kids walk or bike. The bike rack gets very little use – I always have one end to myself when I bike the kid to school (it’s about two miles).

    My son went to a “summer camp” at a school that has that car line and valet system. I found that peculiar most of all because they called it a “car pool” but there was never more than one parent in a car. I would have like to bike him there, but it would have been difficult and dangerous because that school doesn’t have sidewalks in front, has blind sightlines on the driveways, and obviously had never considered the concept of arriving any way but car.

  29. Lori Walsh August 31, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

    My daughter attended a private school here in Louisiana where they used the placard system for students who were picked up by car. I think it had more to do with making sure the car line flowed smoothly than with any fears of abduction. If a driver at the front of the line does not pick up his student quickly, all the other drivers have to wait. Now, when I occasionally pick up my kids from the public high school, I have to circle the school and get back in line if they are late so I do not hold up the line.

    I really wish students in my area could walk or ride bikes but the vast majority can not. We live in a suburban area that used to be rural. All of the main roads are busy two-lane highways with no shoulders or sidewalks and ditches along the sides that make walking extremely hazardous.

  30. Rebecca O August 31, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    Well we drive to preschool since it is 15miles away but we already walk or bike to the elementary school where my daughter will go for her speech class and will continue. They have crossing guards all over the place.

    But the greatest way to get to school I have ever seen is kids in Afton Wy. who drive themselves on Atv’s and Tractors.

  31. EricS August 31, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    These methods make children who don’t know (because they’ve never been taught) even more ignorant. They are forced to NOT think for themselves. I’m sure safety is their priority, but if you look at the bigger picture (as we’ve all discussed about probability vs things ACTUALLY happening), these people are just endangering their children more by making them “dumb” cows being herded into the meat factory.

    The sad and ironic thing too is, I can almost guarantee that if something were still to go wrong, these parents are going to point fingers at others and insist that more precaution be implemented. A vicious cycle trying to fix a problem that 1. doesn’t really need fixing, and 2. the problem is not the system, it’s the people/parents. They can argue that all they want, but we all know, including them, that is the truth.

  32. Frau_Mahlzahn August 31, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    How I get my kids to school? Preferably _on time_, ;-). My daughter (12) takes public transportation, my son (8) walks, his school is only a few minutes away from our home. Yet, he manages to be late almost every morning… So I have to walk him to school to make sure, he gets there at all, ;-). Home he walks with a friend.

    So long,

  33. Frau_Mahlzahn August 31, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    P.S.: About 25 years ago I came to the States as an exchange student, and had to take the school bus to get to school. When I was late to get to the bus stop, the bus would stop at my house to pick me up. My host mom got really mad, when she noticed, and made me leave the house on time to get to the regular bus stop — she argued that kids should not grow up thinking that everyone would stop for them. Same when she heard that every car (going in either direction) had to stop for a school bus so the kids could cross the road. Back then I didn’t understand why she made such a fuss about it, but now I do and think she was right.

    So long,

  34. MommyMagpie August 31, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    I homeschool, but back when my kids attended the local public school, I began allowing them to walk the 5 (short) blocks, and a couple of days later I was called to the school and had to explain why I was “making” my kids walk to school “unescorted.” I think part of it was due to a family who lived one block further away, whose child was delivered to the school door every morning by one parent, and picked up in the same spot every afternoon.

    There is an elementary school in town that uses the walkie-talkie system for car-riding students. Also K kids who ride the bus must be met at the stop by a parent or guardian.

  35. Jen August 31, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    I am in Brooklyn, and my 10 year old walks the 2 blocks to school, but I have seen other kids get driven and picked up. There is always a traffic jam in the afternoons when the kids get out. My 14 year old will be taking the subway into Manhattan this year, so I am a little nervous about that, but I know they have a good head on their shoulders.

  36. Patricia Jacob August 31, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    I live in a small town in Brazil. My son, 9, goes either by bike, or I ride him if we are late for any reason. But in his school most kids, even the ones who live 2 blocks away from school (!!!!), go with their moms/dads/nanas. Me and some other “brave” moms had to face the shoking look in the eyes of the teachers when we signed the permission for them to leave school by themselves.

    The reality here in Brazil is this among the high/medium class families, but the simplest (poorer, don’t know how you use) families give much more autonomy to their children.

  37. Aaron Klenke August 31, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    I can see my kid’s elementary school from my house. Less than a 1/4 mile. But because there is a creek and a small patch of woods they cannot walk directly to it. The road they would have to take would make the walk 1.5 miles and along a 45 MPH road with limited shoulder and sidewalk.

    We are bus people and the parents of most of the kids walk them to the bus stop at the end of the block. I think only one parent does it for safety reasons. The rest of us like to hang out and talk about this and that.

  38. Maggie August 31, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    My Monsters are both in high school. Elder Monster is a Senior, and has been riding his bike the three miles to school since he was a Freshman. I do make him take the bus once the snow flies, though.

    Younger Monster is a Freshman, and rides the bus so he can hang with his peeps before the rush of the school day. The bus stop is right at the end of the street.

  39. marciepooh August 31, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    My baby (now a dreaded 12 yr old) sister’s primary school (K-2) had the kids grouped by last initial on the sidewalk and the parent’s drove up and stopped at the appropriate group. At her elementary school (3-5) they had 3 or four lanes for cars to pull up 6 or 7 deep, everyone would stop, several teachers with walkie-talkies would find out who you were picking up (some people had placards), radio the names to the teachers inside then the kids walked out to the cars, when all the cars had their child, they were all allowed to move out and the next batch moved in. Both schools had the option of parking and walking into the school to collect your student. Her middle school (6-8) has a huge lot where everyone just parks and waits for their child to find them.

    We live in a rural area where walking is limited to kids who live very close to the school. The roads near the middle school have no shoulder, much less a sidewalk, are somewhat narrow, and crazy drivers making the 1 mile walking limit of MY childhood elementary school (2 mile for high schoolers, in the suburbs in another state) unreasonable. More kids live close enough to the primary, elementary, and high schools than the middle school. Still no sidewalks but wider streets and somewhat less traffic. I have no idea how many of those kids who really could walk get driven.

    My sister rode the bus in the morning in kindergarten and 1st grade, then her bus driver and neighbor retired. Her bus ride was 45 minutes but it’s only a 15 minute drive to school. The extra 1/2 hour of sleep is a big deal. In kindergarten she started out riding the bus home, too, but after 3 weeks of coming home zombified by 45 minutes in 100 degree heat my folks decided to start picking her up.

  40. Kerry August 31, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    We live in a neighborhood that has its own school. The car line is much as you described the one at the Florida school you mentioned– in spite of the fact that we all live within 2 miles of the school. Also in spite of that fact, there are VERY few walkers– even those who live just a few streets over don’t walk! I walk my 6 year old son almost all the way, until we can see the school. Then he walks the rest of the way (about 3 blocks). He wanted to do this from the very beginning, and I am happy to give him independence as he is ready for it.

    At the end of last school year, I was put on bed rest and my husband drove my son to school on his way to work. To this a neighbor actually commented that she was GLAD I was put on bed rest, because she was really shocked that until then I allowed my son to walk to school “in such dangerous times.” !!!!

  41. Merinda August 31, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    I don’t have kids or anything, but I was a high school kid about thirteen years ago (class of 97). I lived about a mile from the Jr High/High school and could have taken the bus (and did, for a while in Jr High). The nearest collection point was a pretty short walk from my house. However in High School I rode my bike. Uphill, and yes, even in the Washington State drizzle. The only time I ever got a ride was if I was late, and even then mom was never happy about having to do it. Of course I was also about the only High School kid to ride a bike. I also walked or biked the mile or so to the local library and the church and pretty much had the run of downtown. Alone.

    I have to say, not getting my driver’s license until I was eighteen wasn’t entirely a bad thing. I was never overweight until i was an adult, since I walked or biked everywhere.

  42. Dawn August 31, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    As far as happens here, a lot of kids are driven in the mornings because, once true fall/winter hits, it’s pretty dark here in the morning when the middle and HS start. We have some limited busing, and some kids do walk (my kids did). Unfortunately, there are not sidewalks on all the roads.

    After school is another story. A fair amount of kids walk home, either in groups, with a parent, or with siblings. However, there are a lot of after school activities and by the time they end, it is often dark and the kids are picked up/driven home from those. HS kids can’t drive until they are seniors due to limited parking. A lot of boys will get mopeds as soon as they are old enough for a license (14 in NJ). I was informed by my daughters, however, that no girls ride mopeds, so they had to walk!

  43. Rebekah August 31, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    We live in a pretty small town in the South, and our neighborhood is quite close to both the elementary and middle schools. Our daughter is not quite 4, so we’re not into the school routine just yet, but I see kids walking and biking to and from the middle school every day. I’m not sure about elementary aged kids, though.

  44. Dean August 31, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    My kids attend a school that is consistent with a number of free-range principles. They too do the pick-up system as described and my understanding is that it’s about kids not getting hit by cars which iwould be, indeed, a very real issue if all the children (preschool through 8th grade) simply ran out into the parking lot to find their cars. It would also cause serious traffic jams, so it’s probably as good a system as they could have, I think. Unfortunately, no one can really walk as it’s in a nearly rural area (although more developed every day) and there aren’t sidewalks on the two-lane highway it’s on. My own kids take a bus.

  45. Bernadette Noll August 31, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    This year we are making a goal of biking to school every day. Last year we drove quite a bit because of lateness (and laziness too I suppose) We find ourselves arriving in a MUCH more relaxed state when we bike then when we drove. And no road rage confrontations either! So we bike the kids the one mile in the morning and then in the afternoon they bike home on their own.

  46. Evelyn August 31, 2010 at 11:49 pm #

    The Florida line-up-your-car thing happens in NC too, because I have a girlfriend who was complaining about picking up her kid. She had to wait half an hour, and all the while, she could see parents going in and getting their own kids (apparently if you park a few blocks away, you can just walk in and get your child).

  47. Sophie Methven August 31, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    I have to say I am absolutely thrilled at the way kids (and teenagers!) get around in Edinburgh, where i live.
    My daughter attends a nearby state secondary school and almost ALL of her friends walk to school and this has been the case since they were about 7.
    While some live only five minutes walk away (albeit through woods… gasp!) most, including us live more than a mile away.
    Basically everyone who doesn’t walk either cycles or gets the public bus. There are a couple obviously whose parents drive them to school but as far as I know it has nothing to do with safety, just an issue of getting them to school on time!

    and it’s not just getting to school where the parents are largely ‘free-range’ but in everyday life. My daughter and her friends (13 and 14 year olds) have been off into town on the bus, up north on the train and generally been getting themselves around since about the age of 10.
    Whether it be to go shopping, to the beach, to the dri ski slope or just ‘out’ they do it all themselves.
    She does have one friend who has a slightly more overprotective mum but when we say overprotective we are talking about her not wanting them to go camping on a campsite 3 hours up north by themselves or skiing alone at a real ski resort in the scottish highlands. Not walking to school or using public transport!

    However my daughter and her friends are incredibuly mature for their age. There are certainly some 14 year olds I wouldn’t even want to leave home alone for a few hours! Like you always say: it’s dependant on the child :)

    Sorry just realised what a long rambling post that was! Completely off topic :S

  48. pennylrichardsca September 1, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    No school buses here in our part of LA, except for special education students who require transportation to attend the appropriate program. We walk, and quite a number of other kids walk; it’s pleasant to do so, the neighborhood is flat and full of sidewalks, and the weather is decent all year long. There’s fenced-in bike parking on campus for kids who ride. NO placards or walky-talkies here, thank goodness.

  49. Amy September 1, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    My kids aren’t yet in school, but the bus stop is at the corner in front of my house.

    I often see parents waiting at the bus stop in their cars – particularly during the winter months. I haven’t bothered to ask them why! I’m pretty sure they’re just nuts.

    I’ve also heard that at the nearby K-3rd elementary school that my kids will attend, only the 3rd graders are allowed to ride their bikes to school (regardless of distance), and that it’s a privilege that can be revoked for behavioral issues at school (talk in class? Can’t ride your bike to school anymore) which seems absurd to me, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    They’re going to LOVE us next year when my daughter starts kindergarten – my husband plans to get a kid-sized tandem addition for his bike, so he can ride my daughter to school, drop her off, and continue to his office a couple of miles away. And if they tell us she’s not old enough, they’ll have a fight on their hands.

  50. Jay September 1, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    My daughter has been taking public transportation since grade 2. She could have rode a school bus for Gr2 and 3, but chose not to.

    In Gr4-7 she switched to a school that was closer to my office than our home, and had two transfers to make on her way home.

    In Gr 8 and 9 she went away to school to different parts of the country to see what that was like, and now for the last two years has been back home, and back on the bus… though I wish she would walk, since the transit or walking each take a 1/2 hour.

    The only thing that was ever said to me about it was her Gr4 teacher at the beginning of the year asked if she was ok on the bus, and when I said that she had been riding since she was a baby, and was well capable she accepted that and nothing else was said.

  51. Renee Aste September 1, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    Mid-size city catholic school pre-k through 8

    Pre-K and K have to be handed off to an adult that is on the list. These classes use the back door to be released.

    Grades 1-3 needs a written note at the beginning of the year on how the child will be picked up. The school doesn’t just want a 2nd grader to decide for himself to walk home if a parent happens to be a few minutes late. Students at this age should know just go back into the office.

    Grades 4-8 No restrictions.

    Everyone is just released at the same with limited parking, teachers and a crossing guard are outside to stop traffic. There is also a lot of non-school traffic in the neighborhood also.

  52. Elizabeth September 1, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    I am a home childcare provider on a relatively small military base in rural California.

    On one hand, it is encouraging to see many of the kids walking to the base schools on their own each day. After all, we live in a heavily gated community (as in large, barbwire fences, and military police patrolling the gates) and the housing and school area is on a separate end of the base, where only residents are allowed!

    Last week, however, I did after-school care for two children for the week. They were 7 and 9 years old and in the 3rd and 4th grade.

    My house is conveniently located RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from the school. There is a walk across the school parking lot (which has a large, fenced off walkway area so children are protected from cars), followed by a cross-guard in uniform helping the children cross the virtually empty, residential, 20-mph street, and then you are in the back lot of our cozy cul de sac.

    And – I’m sure you guessed it – each day for a week I had to load up four or five toddlers and babies in a stroller or walking next to it and trek across the grass and parking lot (in the middle of nap time, no less) to pick up these kids because their mom wouldn’t let them walk to my house!

    Although it is indeed encouraging to see the high rate of kids walking to school and playing outside by themselves in our community (which is arguably one of THE safest possible neighborhoods) I was pretty amazed at how many parents lined up in their SUVs to pick up their kids from school each day, saving their kids from the at-most .5 to .75 mile walk or bike ride in a 100% residential, no busy-streets, gated and heavily patrolled area.

  53. Angela September 1, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    We live in a suburban neighbourhood, and my kids go to our catchment public school. It is at the end of our street, where my kids have to cross a not-too-busy road, with a crosswalk, but no crossing guard, in a school zone. My son will be in Grade 3 (8 YO) and we are going to let him walk by himself this year. It’s 4 houses down (approximately 170 feet) until he hits the crosswalk. We can watch him from our driveway the entire time. We are not going to let him walk his sister, who is 5 YO (entering Kindergarten) because we don’t trust his authority with her, to “make her” stop with him at the crosswalk, and watch/wait for cars to come to a full stop. As the year progresses, if she behaves and starts “listening” to her brother, then yes, they will be allowed to walk to school by themselves.

    Even when we lived a block further away, we walked the kids (but they had to cross a street with buses, so it was a bit more traffic). My point is we NEVER drove them, even if it was dumping rain (which it does 5 months of the school year here in Vancouver, Canada!). Get your umbrella, wear a raincoat, make ’em wear boots if you can put up with the fight – else, have wet shoes all day.

    Our school’s “policy” seems to be the kids in the younger grades (K, Grade 1, maybe Grade 2) have to wait for parents/caregivers to show up to the classroom door, but that even seems to vary by teacher, since my son was often allowed to take off at the end of the day on his own last year (he was in a Grade 2/3 split). I think the teachers play it by ear and pay attention to the usual routine for each child. I’m sure the teachers would never permit a child to leave with an adult they weren’t familiar with.

  54. delia September 1, 2010 at 12:49 am #

    My daughter (5th grade) walked the half mile to school every day. From what I’ve heard and she’s told me, she was the ONLY kid in her school who walked – sadly, I believe her.

    This isn’t exactly standard, but I thought you might want to hear how I got to school in 8th grade. The highway in front of our house was under construction and we had a series of huge rain storms. Construction halted and no one was able to drive on the road, it was a mudbath. There were about 10 kids on our stretch of road and it was about a mile walk through fields to get to the nearest side road where the bus could pick us up. I was wrong in saying no one could drive it, tractors could. One of our neighborhood farmers would hook up his haywagon to his tractor and picked us up at the end of our driveway every morning. We’d sit on bales of hay and he’d drive us to the bus stop. We were expected to make the walk home ourselves, which every single one of us did and it never occurred to any of us to ask for a ride.

    Whenever my kids complain about riding the bus, I tell them they have no right to gripe, I had to ride a haywagon to school!

  55. Tom Comeau September 1, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    This is a followup to my earlier comment. I was reminded (by the high school kid) that there have been two occasions where parents had to pick up by showing ID and getting kids sent out by walkie-talkie:

    First, the 11th of September, 2001. Nobody knew what was going on when schools closed shortly after noon.

    Second, after the DC sniper hit a school in a nearby county. In addition to staff radio-ing for students to be brought out, we had police at each school.

    Do the schools in Florida routinely get attacked by snipers? The “precautions” they are taking might make sense in the event of a specific, credible threat or major terrorist attack. On an ordinary school day, they are nuts.


  56. pentamom September 1, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    My kids walk down the hall to their rooms after breakfast to start their schoolwork….

    but seriously folks, here in the city, there appear to be a good number of parents who pick up their kids by car, but there don’t seem to be any rules about making sure they get in the right car. They’re just let out the door at the closing bell, to either find their ride or walk home. Kids do seem to walk in clusters, but I don’t think there are any “rules” about it. Not having my kids in the local elementary schools, I’m really not aware of what the busing rules are.

    I know from following buses that some of them do drop off at houses, but I don’t think that’s general bus policy — I might be seeing late buses with fewer kids on them, or special needs, or something. And being an urban district, much of the bus transportation is done by designated city buses rather than school buses, which obviously don’t do door to door.

    Here in Erie PA, it’s still pretty much the 80’s as far as getting to and from school, and letting kids be out and about-type sanity. I am sooooo thankful.

  57. annieology September 1, 2010 at 1:00 am #

    When we first moved to town we found a house three blocks from the school. The day before school started a lady knocked on my door an asked if I’d like to join the carpool.

    “Carpool to where?”

    She named the school three blocks from our house.

    Wondering if it was some sort of “walking” carpool where one parent would take turn walking the other kids in the neighborhood, I asked her how that would work. She explained that not only would I pick up her kid and others every morning my assigned week but would need to pick up their “carpool carseats” before Monday and pass them to the next parent on Friday.”

    For the school THREE BLOCKS away.

    I declined.

    Incidentally, I let my 2nd grader play inattended in the front yard. One day he called her 3rd grader a name. She marched right over to my house and demanded that we take a parenting class together to figure out how to resolve this conflict.

    Again I declined. Fortunately she brought me study notes every week. 😉

    And, my unattended 2nd grader beat the carpool kids to school every morning.

  58. AlanaM September 1, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    My son A is in 2nd grade and 8 years old. He is now biking to school by himself. He is very proud of himself. In a school of approx 600 students, I only saw 5 bikes in the bike rack on the first day of school. His is the small one, the rest are owned by older children. His older brother now goes to a different school so I feel it safer for him to bike to school instead of walking (alone). And he LOVES it!!

  59. emily September 1, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    We live 5 kilometers from my daughters school, which is a rural school so everyone is bussed or driven – there are only a handful of homes close enough that a child could walk. The bus picks her up at the end of the driveway. Most days I go outside with her, usually my husband and toddler come too – not because we are scared to let her wait alone, but because we enjoy the 5 minutes outside in the fresh morning air together. We wait for her afterschool too for the same reason. I think there is nothing wrong with being sent off and welcomed home each day by a wave, a smile and a ‘love you, have a good day’ or a 2 year old running down the driveway with arms wide open to greet her big sister.

  60. jim September 1, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    Well, of course the bus stopped at the end of the driveway at each house. We were out in the country and the farms were usually a quarter to a half-mile apart. This was a small (4K or so) farming town in Missouri in the 60s – only farm kids rode the bus; if you lived inside the city limits (where all houses were within a half-mile or so of the school) there was no bus service. You walked or rode your bike (and I never saw a parent ride with their kid to school – that would have branded you a wimp, plus no one over 16 rode bicycles then) and MAYBE if you were a town kid your folks would give you a ride if the weather was either gale or blizzard conditions. Usually, Mom would just make sure you had your overshoes on.

  61. Carla September 1, 2010 at 1:06 am #

    The school where my daughter will go to JK this year (in Ottawa, Canada) did a survey last year or to identify the barriers to children walking or biking to school. It turned out that parents drove their kids because they were worried the kids would get run over by cars, who turns out where mostly other parents driving their kids for the same fear! So, working with the city, the school banned all car parking in front of the school (both sides) and within 150 meters of the entrance during school entry and exit. If parents want to pick up by car, they now have to park a block or so away and then walk to pick up their kid from the yard. This has hugely increased the rate of kids walking and biking to school. As part of the same effort, they also assisted people to set up ‘walking school bus’ routes in different places. Our kid will take the bus, since we are at the edge of the catchment area about 5 kilometres away. But the neat thing is the school boards organised a bus awareness day to teach kids how to behave safely around a bus, so that is also good.

  62. Hilary September 1, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    In our city (Rochester N.Y.) kids who live more than 1.5 miles from school get the bus, and it stops at every house. I think that door-to-door service is true in the surrounding suburbs too (though more of them get the bus within 1.5 miles). We live a few blocks from school and walk — my kids could walk by themselves, but I love the walk so I mostly go with them. Unfortunately, there are very few other kids in the neighborhood, and none on our street, going to our neighborhood school.

    I don’t know what happened to bus stops. They were a source of neighborhood camaraderie when I was a kid. But then, so were neighborhood schools, and we have precious few of them left.

  63. Simone September 1, 2010 at 1:15 am #

    I live in a town in the Netherlands and I ride my children (4 and 6) to school. My 6-year old can ride on his own bike and my 4-year old rides with me. Most of the parents ride their bicycles as it is in the centre of town and you can’t park your car anywhere. I don’t know when I will let them ride to school on their own as there is a lot of traffic. The school is next to the hospital so there are a lot of taxi’s, ambulance and other cyclists that don’t pay a lot of attention to the children riding their bike.
    When I went to secondary school at 12 I had to cycle 20 km to school and 20 km back (in the Eighties). Everybody would ride their bike and you would be called a wimp if you would take the bus before the autumn holiday. Some would even ride to school in winter. I can’t remember my dad ever taking me to school and if I had a flat tyre I would repair it at school, no chance of asking my dad.

  64. Susan September 1, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Our school works just like the Florida school in Lenore’s article, except we have about 5-6 cars that pull up to the curb, fifth graders have the job of opening the doors of the cars (sort of like the crossing guards of old), and walkie talkies are used to tell the teachers inside who to send out. I don’t believe we have signs or anything on the cars. Maybe the walkie talkie lady just knows everyone or the fifth graders ask the parent. It takes 15-20 minutes.

    I live literally across the street from school. My three kids (5, 7, and 9) walk by themselves. They walk to our corner, turn and walk to the next corner (on the same block) where the crossing guard is, cross the street on to school property, and walk in the door. When we first started school, all of the kids on my block were walked to school by their parents or their parents walked to the corner so that they could watch them the whole way. Even the parents of 5th graders did this.

    I did this with my oldest daughter due to peer pressure. When my daughters were 5 and 7, I started letting them walk by themselves. Within weeks all of the parents on my block were letting their kids walk by themselves. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief.

    This is certainly not considered a safe choice by all though. Last year, my 8 yo dd had a friend over and they wanted to take our dog for a walk by themselves. I let my daughter do this, but I know that most parents around here would not. When the girl’s mom came to pick her up, I asked her how she felt about letting the girls walk the dog by themselves. She hemmed and hawed and said that she knew that her 9 yo dd needed to start doing things like that and then, oddly, she went into a whole spiel about me letting my kids walk to school by themselves. She said she guessed that was okay because there were two of them, but my younger daughter would probably get in a car with anyone if she was by herself and on and on.

    The weird thing was that I really hadn’t asked her if it was okay for me to let my own children walk to school by themselves. Her responding that way made me realize that she had thought about it quite a bit and that a lot of parents at our school probably have an opinion about MY kids walking to school by themselves. I can just picture all of those moms in the 15 minute car pool line shaking their heads sadly at my poor children.

    I really need to move to another community.

  65. Sky September 1, 2010 at 1:20 am #

    I like this site… Nice design and cool images
    I live in a town in the Netherlands and I ride my children (4 and 6) to school. My 6-year old can ride on his own bike and my 4-year old rides with me. Most of the parents ride their bicycles as it is in the centre of town and you can’t park your car anywhere. I don’t know when I will let them ride to school on their own as there is a lot of traffic. The school is next to the hospital so there are a lot of taxi’s, ambulance and other cyclists that don’t pay a lot of attention to the children riding their bike.

  66. Pamala September 1, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    At my daughter’s elementary school we have two areas the cars can line up, however one is just for kindergarten. Those kids that don’t ride the bus in K. and don’t have an older sibling that is picking them up must be picked up by the Kindergarten doors through the line if the parents drive, which most do. Parents of older children may line up in front of the school or across the street filling up the parking lot, and the kids come out and find the right car on their own. There is no minimum age rule about walking or biking to school, however we also have the Boys & Girls Club right behind the school and about 60% of the kids go there after school and then are picked up or walk home at other times.

    My 3rd grader has been walking to and from school on her own since last year in 2nd grade. She does have a cell phone however because plans often change when you share custody.. like with today I will need to call and see if she wants me to pick her up before I go to an appointment because her dad was supposed to meet her at my house and pick her up, but now he’s sick. Or if she just wants to stay home alone for about an hour and work on homework.. I bet she wants to ride with me lol..

  67. Anna September 1, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    Our neighborhood K-6 grade school is 1/2 mile away (10 minute walk) in a suburban neighborhood with sidewalks near San Diego (year-round mild weather with only rain storms in the winter), so when my son attended that school, he nearly always walked, unless we had another journey that required the car, in which case we would park almost 2 blocks away from the school and walk the rest of the way to avoid the crush of traffic at the school. On rainy days, it seemed far more dangerous to drive, because the traffic at the school was far worse. It’s safer and less hassle to don rain-gear and walk. Driving or on foot or bike, the hazards of impatient late drivers close “to the bell” are a real menace!

    In 3rd grade, we stopped escorting our son on the walk to school. in mid-4th grade, he began to ride his bike (bike rack locked inside the school fence), then later he used his skateboard (skateboards and helmets could be checked into the office).

    In 5th grade our son changed schools and enrolled in a local public charter school with a M-Th week (Friday is a home school day). This school, while a better academic environment for our son, is not so conveniently located, just over 3 miles away, with a busy commercial district with lots of surface street traffic between the school and our neighborhood, though there are sidewalks and crosswalks at most intersections. There is no school bus service for this small independent school and the public bus routes are not at all convenient (he would still have to walk almost 1/2 the distance and it would take 1-1.5 hours one way for a 3 mi. journey).

    So M-Th my husband drives our son to school (7-9 minutes, depending on traffic light cycles) on his way to work, which is not out of the way at all, though sometimes their schedules conflict, in which case I drive our son to school. Then I usually run some errands before returning home.

    I also drive to pick up our son after school, but usually I coordinate pickups with 1 or 2 other families, so I rarely have to make the drive more than 2 afternoons a week.

    Next year he will go to junior high school. If he attends the “default” school, he will, bike, or skateboard the 1/2 mile (8 minute walk) route, though we are also considering a smaller junior high school that is about 15 minutes’ drive away in a neighboring town, in which case his father will drive him on the way to work and I will car-pool with other parents.

  68. Shakti September 1, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    In our tony suburb nw of Boston the bus does indeed stop at the home of each and every kindergartener, but not every student. But that’s not the saddest part. I live .3 miles from the school, which was recently rebuilt. The construction and demolition of the old building closed the walking paths to the school from our neighborhood for past two years, so the town ran a temporary bus. My neighbors requested that the bus be continued this year. Mostly, apparently, because they didn’t want to go back to having to walk their kids to school or drive them when it rained. I should think that there would be few children who can’t afford proper rain gear in a UMC suburb, but what do I know? Of course, I had no intention of either walking with mine or driving them, but I can’t really force them to walk when their friends are all on the bus. They do know that if they miss the bus, they WILL be walking.

    The ultimate irony? This school has banned ALL snacks or other foods from all birthday and holiday celebrations in the classroom due to concerns about allergies and childhood obesity.

  69. Rivergreenway Bike Path September 1, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    Over 20 years ago, the line of cars with names on each windshield was the rule at our pre-school. You mentioned this situation as being not unlike one for an unpopular dictator being hustled into his limo. Great image! It’s also like what would be in place in a war-torn country where we’re trying to protect the kids from gunfire. It’s bizarre.

    My Recent Experience —-

    1.) I took 2 elementary age boys to school just the other day to help a parent out. At the school, the cars entered and circled around and waited in a long line for the doors of the school to be unlocked. Nobody got out of the cars for 10 or 15 minutes. While I could have told the boys to get out and go wait at the front door, I didn’t because they seemed to be familiar with this ritual. ( To be honest, there were 3 or 4 kids who did walk up to the doors, but everyone else remained in the cars.)

    3.) This part I thought was over-the-top. Seven or eight kids acting as safety patrols actually came out and lined up on the sidewalk. When the school opened, these patrols actually came up to each car and either opened the door for the kids, or if the door was already opened, held the door open while the children exited, then closed it.

    4.) When I was in school a long time ago, I do remember waiting outside for the doors to open, but I also remember all the kids visiting with each other and milling around in a crowd outside. That of course did not happen at this school. So, not only do these kids not walk or bike, they don’t socialize before school begins.

    One More Important Point

    On a different aspect of the benefits of walking or biking to school. Exercise has been mentioned as one of the reasons kids should walk or bike. But there’s another aspect to exercise that I haven’t seen talked about, and that is this:

    When a person walks or bikes – the alternating left-right exercise of both sides of the body, while the person runs a memory about an upsetting event, serves as a form of therapy or mental processing. It reduces the emotional charge associated with the event. So, if kids don’t have enough physical exercise, those arriving at school from upsetting home environments are more likely to be disruptive in the classroom. (You can find this discussed in books about EMDR.)

  70. Kiesha September 1, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    My bus stopped at each kid’s house, but that’s because I lived in a rural part of the school district and there were NO sidewalks along our route. I think some of the more ‘civilized’ routes probably had group bus stops.

  71. rhodykat September 1, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    We live on a windy, narrow road that necessitates driveway pick-up – mainly because the high school is at one end of the street and it is just too dangerous to let my elementary kids walk or bike when the late high school kids are rushing around the blind curves to get to school (we’ve had someone hit and killed within the last two years). My annual argument with the superintendent’s office is when is a child old enough to walk up a driveway alone. We’re up to second grade, and the school admin today told me that if the bus driver doesn’t see me, they won’t let my daughter off the bus – even though said daughter waits outside by herself in the morning for pick-up. They see the garage open with the car in it, but that does not suffice. My body must be physically visible. Our school is fourth grade for unescorted bike riding to school.

  72. Eleanor September 1, 2010 at 2:12 am #

    Well, plenty of kids in my neighborhood still walk to school, alone or with their friends–either to the local Catholic K-8, the public 3-5, or the public high school. K-2 kids ride the bus, and their parents generally walk them to the stops; middle school kids also ride the bus, as that particular neighborhood is a difficult bike ride away; however, at least when I was still in middle school 7 years ago the kids who lived within a mile all walked or biked. Plenty of crossing guards around to keep the little kids safe and bother the teenagers. Madison WI by the way, older walkable neighborhood.

  73. EricS September 1, 2010 at 2:15 am #

    I’m enjoying the comments here. Too many to reply to, but here are replies to some of them.

    @ Sophie: True, it’s dependant on the child. But that’s dependant on how the child was brought up as well. Not saying all, but most of the “immature” kids I know, are the spoiled ones. Who’ve had pretty much everything done for them.

    @ Amy: “it’s a privilege that can be revoked for behavioral issues at school”…really?! The way I see it, if it’s not against the law, they can kiss my … lol If my kid wanted to ride his bike to school, he has my permission. If he can’t park his bike on school property, then I would instruct him to lock up his bike around the perimeter in a non-secluded area, and walk the rest of the way. If the school has an issue with that, they can call me. Which probably wouldn’t be a good idea. 😉

    @ Jay: Awesome! I’m also glad to hear that there are teachers out there that still have common sense.

    @ Elizabeth: Even in a Military compound? That’s pretty unnerving. They are pretty much saying even in one of the country’s military installations, people are still fearful. What does that say about our society, and our trust in our own protectors of our country? Hmmmm. No common sense. I’ve known some military moms in my days, and they are some of the toughest women I’ve met. You’d think the officer dad wore the pants, uh-uh. lol Get up, get dressed, eat, brush your teeth, go to school (all on their own, that’s dad and kids).

    @ Sky: You still have to take into consideration of factors beyond your control. If it’s a known problem that there are cars or cyclist who don’t pay attention, then that’s something real to weigh-in on, and understandable if you feel that your child isn’t ready for the task. Unlike most fears, which are remote possibilities, that people use to make their judgement. If I was came across your situation, until I was confident that my kids were educated and capable of making quick decisions in high volume traffic, I probably would be apprehensive as well. But I’d still be teaching them so that they will be at some point.

  74. Cindy Karnitz September 1, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    My daughter’s school for kindergarten is three blocks away, so we walk there and back. There is a mom who puts her kinder student on the bus, then drives to school to get her daughter off the bus and make sure she gets to the correct door. I hope this behavior will cease when she realizes that the walk up the sidewalk from the bus to the door is within the capabilities of a kindergartner.

    My son has been riding the bus (and walking to the bus stop by himself) since 2nd grade, so 7 years old. Our funny cautionary tale is to always check the weather/school closings before sending your kids out! When he was in the fourth grade, he had to walk about five blocks to his bus stop. I never checked the weather report, but being winter in the Midwest it was very cold, snow covered grounds, unshoveled sidewalks, you can imagine the scene. I get him bundled up, and send him on his way, never having checked the school closings. He comes home 45 minutes later. He had waited at the bus stop for 30 minutes in the cold, he never saw any other students or any school bus. Turned out that is was so bitterly cold the school buses would not start, so that had to cancel school!!!

    You know what Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”. A cup of hot cocoa and some time in front of the fire warmed him back up, and now I always check the weather and school closings.

  75. Ash September 1, 2010 at 2:33 am #

    (did not read the comments above)

    This system looks at least like a rescue team in a tsunami hit area at work. Would it become norm in a school of my (not yet existent) kids i’d consider sending them to another school – because the school probably is worst-first in more things besides that

  76. Shakti September 1, 2010 at 2:43 am #

    Well, before the reconstruction there wasn’t a bus. We lived across the district at that time, but my understanding is that most kids walked supervised in nice weather and were driven in bad weather. Two reasons a pro-bus neighbor cited were the inconvenience of waking a preschooler from nap to go pick up school-aged children and the traffic around the school in bad weather.

    Which is another beautiful irony since if kids are in more danger from cars than the bogeyman, particularly around the school, they are surely even MORE at risk from more cars around the school when driving conditions are at their worst, yes?

  77. Jen September 1, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    My seven-year-old boy walks to and from school, weather permitting. it is less than 1/2 Km from my door to school door (less than 1/4 mile) I used to walk him to and from, but as his siblings got older and more disruptive, I eventually started turning around earlier and earlier and letting him go the rest of the way on his own. He walked to school alone for a few months, and then I wrote a letter to the school giving him permission to walk home too. He is fine with it. Before that, I would let his little sister play on the playground by herself while I went in to collect her brother. I got yelled at by a nosey helicopter mom once, when she had a fall. (And even if I had been there I would not have been able to prevent it and I told the busybody that)

    This fall I will be walking his little sister to her brother’s school to get on the bus to her French Immersion school in the fall. I will have to pick her up at lunchtime, but in grade 1 she will take the bus to and from her brother’s school and then walk home with him.

  78. Kimberly Doscher September 1, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    My son gets picked up at the door of our house by the district bus. But he is in preschool, special ed program. Regular preschoolers do not get bussed. Their parents drive them, because a) it’s not in walking distance for such small kids and b) there’s a stretch right outside the nearest gate where there’s no sidewalks, no road shoulder, and an overpass for a local major road. I’d be leery walking that stretch during morning rush hour, and I’m an able-bodied adult.

    We live on a military base. Kids older than pre-school get bussed, all to the same elementary school, and meet up at designated bus stops, with small glass and metal shelters. I don’t know what the practice is for children past elementary school.

  79. Aaron September 1, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    I live in Wyoming in a very small town. We are just large enough to have our own school (plus a Catholic school and a private day care/school). I don’t have any stories for you because people here are normal. Kids walk, ride bikes, ride horses (yes, the school has a stables, part of the FFA), ATVs, cars, skateboards, and whatever else.

    I think this irrational lunacy over “safety” is just for city folk.

  80. blueberrypacake September 1, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    This pick up system of walkie talkies and lines is unvelieveable. It is pure laziness on the parents part. How come they are not walking from home ( or even getting their butts out of the car and waking from a parking lot!) to get their kids. Wasting a half hour waiting for someone to usher out your child from the masses is when you could be in and out in 5 min and on your way home ( walking and talking!) enjoying family time!

    Ack, and dont blame the fact that you have other kids to worry about,you choose to have the other kids, make it work!

  81. Olivia September 1, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    Our kids walk to school. We live in Switzerland. All the kids here walk or ride bikes/scooters to school. We have a fairly small community school. We live in a community of 2500, but we 20 mins from the capital. Some of the children who are higher up in the hill get a ride if it’s bad weather.

    Some communities and cities have a “walking bus”, where a parent leads a group of kids down to the school and they pass the house at a particular time slot (say 08:14). It works well for kids that are young and have to negotiate traffic.

    Kids here also wear little high viability vests and backpack must be 20% reflective material by law. Their vests are given to them by the police officer that teaches traffic school at the beginning of the school year.

    They have a great saying here: “there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices”. So true. lol

  82. Bronwyn September 1, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    I live and teach (high school) in New Zealand. The school bus system is only for students who live 4.8km (3 miles) or more away. Farm kids usually get picked up at their gates, but each gate is a few minutes drive apart. Many of them will cycle down to their gate, or when they are a bit older drive an old farm vehicle to leave at the gate.

    I see town kids walking to school of all ages on my way to my school, small kids too, but I also live on a street with a good primary school and there is a bit more traffic in the morning from parents dropping kids off. I think in part it is because at the end of the street is one of the main roads into town so as parents come into town in the morning, they pull into my street, into the football club carpark at the opposite end of the street from the school and toss the kids out to walk themselves the last 500m.
    Most kids walk themselves, and many of them come down a path that runs next to a creek which is unfenced.

  83. Katie September 1, 2010 at 3:43 am #

    Our elementary schools most of the kids are bussed, they do try to use the ‘community’ bus stop where it’s feasible although last year I saw a mom & daughter standing at their driveway – on the OPPOSITE end of their front yard from the stop watch the bus go by and then high five each other when the bus came back around to pick her up at the drive. Seriously?

    The schools pick up system involves the kids being signed out by parents who are require to wait outside (the line did wait inside but the principal decided that was unsafe) in the weather – we’re in the NE, it gets very cold – so that each parent can sign their child out, then the childs name gets called and off they go.

    My kids bus it both ways although my son starts high school this year and has the option to take the bus or walk since we’re close enough to the high school for him to hoof it. I suspect it’ll be a combination of both things depending on his mood or the weather.

  84. Vanessa September 1, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    My daughter’s K-6 school allows kids to walk or ride bikes starting in third grade. In the mornings, I see a pretty decent-size number of kids either doing this or walking with their parents. A few ride the bus, and the rest are car riders, including my daughter (we live too far to walk).

    At dismissal, kindergartners, who get out an hour earlier than everyone else, are taken to the multipurpose room and then brought out to the car line by class, with the teacher or car-line volunteer checking to make sure each kid hooks up with an adult. The older kids are just let loose when the final bell rings – some of them go to the after-school program, some go to activities like band or science club, some hang out on the playground and play for a while, and the rest spill out the front gate to catch their bus, find their parent in the car line, or walk/bike home. No walkie-talkies – that seems really bizarre to me.

  85. Frau_Mahlzahn September 1, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    @Olivia from Switzerland: my son’s school experimented with such a “walking bus” you were writing about. I don’t think it made any difference in encouraging more parents to let their kids walk to school — if the parents want their kids to walk, they will let them do it whether or not there is such a walking bus.

    I often get mad at other parents, though, who drive their precious little ones right up front to the school _door_ — and don’t even care that this additional traffic right in front of the school makes walking more stressfull for the other kids…

    So long,

  86. Katie A September 1, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    My kids are not yet school-age, so I don’t know what the drill is here, but I just cannot wrap my head around all these comments saying “the school doesn’t let kids under x age walk/bike”. How on earth does the school have any say as to how you get your kid there?

  87. Steve September 1, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    For something on the other end of the wacky scale, a number of kids will ride their snowmobiles into school here in rural Maine (conditions permitting of course). It’s usually just high schoolers and middle schoolers, not too many elementary kids have their own sleds. Only complaints I heard from the school were when the kids would tear around the playing fields and take jumps off parking lot snowbanks after school.

    I also know of a group of friends who would ride their bikes into school on nice days. It took them about an hour to do the 10 mile ride, but they always said it was pretty fun.

    But most kids get picked up by the school bus at their own driveway. Since the next driveway with a school kid is often more than a mile away, this doesn’t seem too ridiculous to me. Neither does waiting in the car at the end of the driveway on those -20F February mornings.

    But the walkie-talkie thing is seriously messed up.

  88. Gena September 1, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    Information at my school district’s website on dropping kids off…
    Please sign your child in and out if bringing them to, or picking them up from, school. DO NOT DROP THEM OFF.
    Your child can only be released through the main office of their building.

    Maybe my kids’ school isn’t the strangest out there. Many parents take their kids to school everyday but there is no walkie talkie and placard thing going on.
    The 4 buildings that make up the school are on a ‘campus’ in a slightly rural area. Some of the kids live in truly rural areas, and need busing, but the kids who live across the street are not allowed to walk. It is a well travelled road with wide shoulders and a 35mph school zone speed limit. My 8 and 10 year old kids ride their bikes in our small town with 30mph speed limits, so I don’t think 35 is all that fast. But biking and walking are ‘discouraged”. Besides, they couldn’t show up by themselves, because no one would sign them in or out. And I have been told there is no place to store a bicycle during the day.

    I know people who wait in the car with their kids at the end of the driveway, and yes, our buses stop at every house. I lived in the same neighborhood when I was younger, and we’d wait at the corner, or a mutually convenient location for everyone. I don’t know when it changed.

  89. Tennessean September 1, 2010 at 4:24 am #

    The Florida method is the one used here in Tennessee. Cars line up in advance. Some people arrive an hour early to get a good position in line. Drivers are required to have placards in their car window with the name of the child. These cards are provided by the school and must not be lost. The children are kept under a shelter though and all the school’s teachers must be outside for 30-45 minutes during this process. A teacher in front shouts out, or uses a walkie talkie to convey, the name of each child and which numbered spot to go to. Another teacher, placed every 15 feet to guard, listens to the caller and forwards the message to each child. These guards also make sure all children sit still and do not move or speak during this process. The child, once called with a number, rushes to that number spot for car pick up. During this whole process, once it is started, all cars in line run their engines and inch forward for the 30-45 minutes it take to complete. The line can have several hundred cars and winds around the parking lot in a snakey pattern, then out to the main road.

    If it is raining, even though there is a covered walkway for all this, the children are held inside and the walkie talkie is used by a teacher in a hurricane suit to shout the names for each car instead. A teacher guarding the door opens it briefly to let each child out one at a time, crouching before in organized groups inside the main hallway.

    The elementary school keeps all doors locked during the day to stop predators, and there is a lock down procedure and drills done regularly with the children to know what to do in the event of a terrorist attack or a madman with a gun shooting children. The realistic possibility of both these possibilities is emphasized to all students during these drills.

  90. Heartfruit September 1, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    My house and most of those in my mid-town Toronto neighbourhood were built in the late ’20s. There was no allowance made here for cars. Most of the streets are one way and most driveways are shared with a neighbour.

    The kids at my daughter’s school mostly walk or bike to school. There are a few kids who are driven but those parents really are taking a chance at finding parking anywhere near the school as the school’s small parking lot is strictly for teachers and other staff.

    The younger children are accompanied by an adult or older child. I know a few kids from the middle school up the street make a small amount of money escorting primary age neighbours to the school each day.

    I expect that by the time my daughter is in grade 3 or 4 she’ll walk by herself or with friends. In the mean time I really value the time spend walking together. My husband often comes with us in the morning on his way to work. Gives us a nice time each day to talk and more importantly to listen to her.

  91. Belladonna September 1, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    Big mixture here in Auckland, NZ.
    We have the helicopter parents who insist on driving their little darlings to and from school (and create gridlock in the streets around the school at pick up and drop off times; not to mention double parking, parking in bus stops and other kid unfriendly behaviours – always surprised when they get a traffic ticket….)
    Tends to be the wealthy schools who have most of these, but no school is exempt.
    We also have school buses, and kids who travel on the normal buses (i.e. the normal bus route is better/faster for them than the school one)
    Almost no cyclists. Auckland roads are notoriously dangerous for cyclists & parents are understandably reluctant to risk their kids (real risk this time, not perceived)
    And, we also have walking school buses. Which I think is great. This is a supervised walk (parent or grandparent volunteers on a roster), which follows a defined route, picking up and dropping off kids on the way. Some kids get collected from their front gate, others wait at the corner for the ‘bus’ to arrive (mostly unaccompanied waiting, apart from the 5 year olds, who are still getting the idea) – it depends on where there house is in relation to the ‘route’. Yes, it would be more free range if the kids did it on their own; but there are some truly dangerous roads, as well as crazy Auckland traffic; so while parents may be exaggerating the danger, some of it is real. The walking school bus is a great compromise – trainer wheels for independence.
    The movement has been driven more by the increasing obesity levels — wanting to encourage kids to get out and get active.
    Interestingly, these are much more prevalent in the middle class areas. Wealthy areas drive their kids, poor areas don’t have the volunteer hours available & the kids have to make their own way (often pretty early in the morning, and there are some problems associated with that).

  92. Heather September 1, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    Nothing weird or fancy at our school. The vast majority of kids do ride the bus. most of the rest are picked up by parents in cars, and a few of us are walkers. My kids walk, or they ride their bikes. We are 2 blocks away. they are allowed to go by themselves.

  93. Belladonna September 1, 2010 at 4:33 am #

    When I was at school (lo, these many years ago). The school had a policy of dismissing kids in waves. We all had to line up on the playground according to the way we were getting home: walking, each bus route, car pick up.
    Then we were released in order. First the walkers, then each bus route, filing out to get on their buses; and last the car kids.
    There were good safety reasons — get the walkers away from the school before the buses left, and especially before the individual cars did.
    But, having to wait until last to leave school, was a major disincentive for the kids to want to be picked up. A nice side benefit.

  94. Kim September 1, 2010 at 4:33 am #

    Unless living with blocks of the school, it’s either the school bus or parents driving them.

  95. Tennessean September 1, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    “the bus no longer stops at bus stops but now actually stops at each child’s home”

    This was done here until 2007, when the cost of gas prices wiped out the gasoline budget and it looked like they were going to cancel the whole school bus program since they just didn’t have the money.

    So they reduced the number of stops to save gas. It also reduced the amount of time it took to get home as a side effect because of the fewer stops. Before this, you’d sometimes see the bus crawling forward a few feet at a time. Even now though, there’s a guideline something like if the child would have to walk more than a couple hundred feet, the bus stops at their actual house. This is a rural bus route though so this might have always been normal. The bus does not go down short dead end side streets though, for those the kids get to walk that final distance.

  96. Wendy September 1, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    On my blog I just posted a few pics of the front of a local elementary school where the kids apparently bike to school in good weather. I noticed the bikes last June, and when I was driving by today I brought my camera in case the bikes were back.

    At my school (which is just the next town over) kids mostly are picked up, but a few walk or bike. I live right across the street, so my kids walk, of course.

  97. Tennessean September 1, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    Oh I also want to mention regarding most of the parents picking up their kids in the giant line with the placards. This is a poor area, and 74% of the school children get subsidized or free lunches since they qualify under the income guidelines. But the parents, despite their income situation, still pay for all the gas to do this pickup routine, and to make the payments on the late model SUV they do it in. Almost every single car in the line is a SUV.

    All children also have ID cards they are required to wear at all times, plus, to get their lunch, they must submit to a biometric fingerprint scanner, even if they are paying cash since cash is not permitted and must be used to fund an electronic account. The fingerprint scanner everyone touches just before eating and it is not routinely sanitized.

  98. Tennessean September 1, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    Also, no walking or bikes are allowed. The school was built out on a highway and there are no sidewalks leading from it, nor are their residential areas within immediate walking distance. It actually would be unsafe to walk since you’d have to walk along the ditch alongside a road where cars are traveling 60mph.

  99. LauraL September 1, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    We have a walk zone, and I see several kids walking on their own to school. We do have some car drop-offs but I can tell, Mom’s on her way to work and school is on the way. We have lots of bike riders, too. I’m blessedly unaware of any crazy OMG parents’ reasons for not allowing their kids to walk/ride/bus. :) Yay my town!

  100. Olivia September 1, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    @Frau_Mahlzahn (Corinna)

    That’s too bad about the walking bus. :( People around here loved the idea.

  101. Adriana September 1, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    There are no buses for our school. The majority of the kids are driven to from school. But there are a few walkers and there are the ones that parents walk with them.
    I’m trying to get my boys to walk but they don’t want to. They are too afraid.

  102. Amber September 1, 2010 at 5:18 am #

    I think for the most part, kids walk to school in my neighbourhood. The school does not have any buses.

    I live in a large city in Canada but our community is mostly made up of people from the India area, with a few from the Philippines and Africa mixed in there. There are always families out walking together here in the evenings and there are also always large groups of children running around without an adult in sight. Some of the kids are very young.

    Now, a funny story about this is that the school does have some rules about how the kids get home. In kindergarten and grade one, my children were not allowed to walk home on their own, even though we live on the edge of the school field. However, when my oldest son was in grade 2, he was allowed to pick up my second son (grade 1) and they started walking home together. My oldest son was over the moon that he got to have this responsibility, and they have been walking to and from school alone together without incident since then.

  103. kherbert September 1, 2010 at 5:34 am #

    We have more walkers this year, because the busy street we are on now has sidewalks.

    @2:30 all grades assemble in their pods (groups of 4 classrooms – we have 6 4th grade classrooms so the 2 in the portables come to the pod.)

    2:35 2 teachers take the early buses (4 buses) to the gym. The students sit down in bus lines by 2:45 we are load the buses. They are gone by 2:55

    2:35 1 teacher takes pick ups. They sit on the porch. (Big deep covered porch, so we can be there even in heavy rain.) The students sit by grade level. Big brother’s and sisters pick up little ones and sit in big brother/sister’s grade. Mrs. M stands back from the porch. She calls Johnny 4th grade #1 over a walkie talkie. Ms. T Calls out to the group Johnny 4th grade #1. Johnny gets up and stands on star 1. This is done for 5 stars. We can load 5 kids at at time. Which makes the line move fast. Usually there is a child(ren) at the star being loaded. Next set behind them waiting. 3rd set walking to the star. We have tags we give the parents to put on the dashboard to speed up the problem. At risk kids wait in the general office or with the principal. We have a few every year that are involved in custody disputes, and a few others with crazy relatives.

    The last group to leave are the walkers. 2 groups of walkers go to opposite sides of the campus.

  104. neener September 1, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    Someone above mentioned a Safety Patrol where students opened/closed car doors for students being dropped off. Just to go on record to please don’t judge that as a bad thing! My daughter’s elem. school allowed 4th graders to be on Safety Patrol and it was a huge honor to those chosen…they had to have teacher recommendations, E’s in conduct, B average. They were to open the car door, help the student out if they had a lot of stuff, say “have a nice day” to the parent, and close (not slam) the door. As a parent who dropped her student off each morning even when she didn’t have safety patrol (as I work 5 minutes past the school), I was so impressed with how SERIOUSLY these kids took their task. And of course, some not-so-seriously, natch. Anyway, after a while I could really see a difference in the kids’ manners. Some who got better at making eye contact with the parent/driver, remembering the “good morning” or “have a nice day”, etc.

    They called it “safety patrol” but it was really more about giving the kids some responsibility and expecting them to work on their manners, too. By the end of the school year, my daughter had greatly improved at the little niceties of life…how are you, have a good day, etc., when interacting with adults. Practice, practice. :-)

  105. Emily September 1, 2010 at 6:01 am #

    My son is only is too young for school yet, but the way it works here (on Long Island)…

    The bus stops in front of every house AND a parent has to be in sight for the driver to let the kid out of the bus. If you’re unable to pick up your child at the bus stop, you have to call the school and authorize someone else to get the kid off the bus (as I’ve done this for friends I’m now buds with the bus driver). I think as long as they’re in elementary school, someone has to meet the bus. By middle school they can get off on their own.

    I have seen my neighbor drive her son to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus (in her defense, as soon as he’s picked up, she leaves, but still, the driveway is maybe 50 yds long).

    Kids actually have to get permission to NOT ride the bus.

    That said, when my son is old enough I do hope to walk with him to school. Not because I don’t think he can do it himself, but to have some down time with him. Time to talk. But, maybe I’m just being delusional.

  106. Stephanie - Home with the Kids September 1, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    We’re some of the few walkers at our local school. For kindergarteners, the child must point out to a teacher the person who is picking him or her up. Older kids wait behind a red line and are supposed to wait until they recognize the person picking them up. The car line is full a half hour before school gets out, or so I’ve been told by parents who drive. Parents get out of their cars and wait in front of the school… definitely better than waiting in cars, I think.

    I know one mom who will be having her third and sixth grader walk two miles to school sometimes this year. I know more parents who drive a few blocks to get into the car line to bring their kids to school.

    It was similar at our old school, except parents were allowed on school property to wait for their kids by the classrooms. I loved that because it let me get to know the parents of my daughter’s classmates, plus it wasn’t showing fear of random adults being on school property.

    Once the kids were past kindergarten, teachers paid little attention to who picked up each kid. I sometimes had a friend’s parent call and suggest that he pick my daughter up to play with his daughter. No point in both of us going over there. My daughter knew which parents were okay to go with, even if she hadn’t been warned in the morning. The ability to surprise the kids with playtime right after school was great. Took some trust in my fellow parents and in the kids’ ability to know the difference between a friend’s parent picking them up and a stranger claiming they were told to pick them up, and never a problem.

    They only allowed bike riding for third grade and up, but I never thought of that as terribly odd, as the rule was the same as I dealt with in elementary school.

  107. Catherine Scott September 1, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    I’d say something but I am speechless.

    What an appalling state of mind these parents must be in.

    Well, not quite speechless.

    I always thought I was little too anxious about my youngest, especially compared to how I’d been with the older kids but then I went to a meeting of parents and teachers about the upcoming school camp . . . .

    After listening to the long list or concerns the other parents had I came away uncertain whether

    1. I was a negligent parent for not having the same concerns


    2. These people didn’t have enough to do and lay awake trawling through everything looking for things to worry about.

  108. Brooke September 1, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    No kids yet but a few years ago, I would sometimes pick up my boss’ kids from school. They had an orderly lineup for the cars and kids would go out when their car became visible but they did trust the children to know who they should ride with. If one of the kids said, “My mom said Brooke might pick us up today”, I was free to take them home, no questions asked.

    How do these placard/number systems account for carpools or after school playdates?

  109. Sherri September 1, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    My daughter went to an all-girls school with a private, secure campus years ago, and they still did the name in the windshield of the car – aids who would walk the line of cars to look for parents then escort the kids to the waiting vehicles from a line in front of the school.

    Now – my kids go to a little Catholic school in an urban neighborhood, and… after school pick up is pretty loosey goosey – show up – find your kid – locate lunchboxes, back packs, etc. – leave (in fact, the whole after school program at this school has people citing how “free range” it is all the time – really good for acclimating the new kids – little kindergartners who have trouble finding their own coat and need to learn to do things for themselves – kids are expected to do their own homework – eat their own snack at the appropriate time, etc.). The “walkers” have to leave at a certain time and go to the back of the school to use the sidewalk – which is also where parents can pick up – the “bussers” exit through the front of the school on their own and go to their respective buses (again, little kids reminded the first few days which bus is theirs).

  110. Bobca September 1, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    My 8 year old daughter went to summer day camp, and the pick up was the same insane…wait in the endless queue, provide your child’s name when you get to the front, the staff calls the child’s name, and your child finally comes to the car…pure insanity.

    Alternatively, my 12 year old son had a computer camp at the high school. The school is 3 miles away. I told him that he could ride his bike if he wanted. He did, and was proud of his larger responsibility. He had bike problems one day, and he sent me a message to come help. Before I got out the door, I had another message that he had fixed it. Wonderful.

  111. Stacey JW September 1, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Here the neighborhood kids walk, no matter how far the school or how old they are. They would ride bikes if they could afford them. If it’s really far, sometimes you will see a bunch of kids, up to 10 or more, in the back of a pick up truck getting a ride (the back of a truck is a popular mode of travel). Sometimes you see a Mom walking with them, but this is only for really little kids, but more often when Mom has to go the same way to work.
    Private school kids get rides if they are out of the neighborhood, walk if they live in it. If they belong to a wealthy, prominent, local family they might be walked in by bodyguards/nannies, as the fear of kidnapping is REAL for these families. Normal people don’t worry about those things, just the very wealthy locals, foreigners are mostly ignored as to much trouble.

    I live in Baja California, Mexico BTW.

  112. farrarwilliams September 1, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    My own kids are homeschooled, but in our DC neighborhood, kids walk to school. I see a lot of older siblings picking up younger kids after school. I also see elementary age kids walking in bunches together – occasionally with an adult, but also without. There are crossing guards on the heavily used corners and the crossing guards are usually very friendly and chatty with the kids. They know many of them and even nag them affectionately to do their homework or put on a coat when it’s cold. Because it’s an urban area, the only buses are for kids with special needs who either can’t walk for some reason or who have special educational plans to attend schools outside their neighborhoods. Families who opt for schools outside their neighborhood drive the younger kids, but I see many middle and high school students who take public transit on their own to and from schools outside their immediate neighborhood.

  113. Gail September 1, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    I don’t have time to read all the previous responses right now, but I’m shocked at the methods you listed at the top. I can’t even imagine living that way. Here, children are either bused or driven to school, with a very few walking or biking and an even smaller number doing so unaccompanied. In some cases, I truly understand it; our school is surrounded by busy streets and we don’t have crossing guards. I appear to be the only parent working with the city to remedy that situation but it will take till the end of next year at the speed of bureaucracy.

    Our situation is slightly complicated this year because, due to distance from the school and the ages of our children, I have one who is entitled to take the bus (and goes half days) and one who isn’t (but goes full days). The stop for the little one – both pickup and dropoff – is so close to the house I can watch it from the window and it’s the same stop as last year, so he’s used to it. I will apply for an “empty seat” for my older one and he will almost certainly be able to get one (it’s a small school) but can only have a stop if there’s a little kid there as well. So, the two will be able to bus home together and the little guy will be picked up but the older one may or may not be able to bus to school. I’ll know in a couple of weeks. Clear as mud?

    I’ve told the older one for months that he’ll not only be walking to school this year (half a mile, practically in a straight line) but making his own lunches as well. I am NOT getting both kids up, dressed, and breakfasted every morning just to get one of them – who, at 9 years old, is plenty old enough to walk by himself – to school for 8 o’clock and I am definitely NOT driving him every day. He doesn’t know that I’m checking into buses for the mornings and he doesn’t know that circumstances will probably contribute to me driving him a couple of times a week due to other commitments, and when I do drive him I plan to drop him off a block away so I don’t get caught in school bus zone hell.

    I’ll be checking with a couple of other families on my street to see if their children can walk with mine. My son is the oldest and most experienced of the bunch, so we’ll see what they say.

  114. Gail September 1, 2010 at 8:25 am #

    I should add, in other neighbourhoods I see kids walking to school. I’m also convinced that I’m seeing more kids out and about on their own than I used to. Could our message be spreading?

  115. Lou Doench September 1, 2010 at 8:25 am #

    My Kindergartner just started at the new SCPA school here in Cincinnati. It’s an awesome new school, downtown, excellent opportunity, especially with arts education becoming a luxury at most public schools. Unfortunately, the school has NO nearby parking or a parking lot. so the k-2nd teachers lead their classes around the building to their various buses and or waiting parents.

  116. Donna September 1, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    My kid’s not in school yet but in my neighborhood, the bus stops at each driveway and kids stay in the house until the bus stops at their driveway – urban area so not long driveways. There is not a high concentration of kids in my neighborhood so it may be different in other places, although I’ve been behind buses stopping at every house in other neighborhoods so who knows.

  117. Library Diva September 1, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    The whole “one stop per house” thing was what got me interested in reading your blog and your book. I witnessed it many times when I was looking after my parents’ house in the winter in our safe, semi-rural community. It’s where I grew up too and that was definitely NOT how I was raised. Why, in my day, we even had “walkers,” who were kept in the classroom until all the busses were gone and then walked home in a group. This would start once you were in 4th grade if you lived less than a quarter-mile away from school. I think it’s ridiculous that kids get door-to-door service now. And they wonder why there’s a childhood obesity epidemic!

    Lenore, I’m emailing you, too.

  118. tracey September 1, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    My five year daughter started school in New Zealand (where we have temporarily relocated from the USA) several weeks ago, and I drive her. We don’t live close enough to walk, and there is no bus service for city kids, the only buses that exist are for kids coming in from rural areas to high school (I used to ride on one). There are a lot of parents who drive and pick their kids up, but I know of one mother who lives close by, and she walks to pick her kids up. There is a lot of traffic around the school especially at 3pm, so I don’t even bother looking for a parking spot close to the entrance, we park on the next street over and walk a block. Scooters are really popular here, lots of kids ride their scooters to school, and there are a few bikes. And I think this is really cool, the older kids (6th grade equivalent) take turns to be crossing guards before and after school, with a teacher to supervise, they stand at either end of the street crossing with their flouresent jackets, and they have stop signs on poles that they use to stop cars whenever kids are waiting to cross. I’m not sure how such a thing would fly in the USA, but I think it’s a fabulous way of teaching kids responsibility and road sense! Older kids either walk or ride, not a parent in sight. It’s compulsary to wear a bike helmet here, and many cyclists, especially school kids, wear flouresent vests. Makes a big difference to their visibility, there is a lot of traffic here, so cycling can be a bit dicey. But people still do it!

  119. Tractor Mom September 1, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    We live in a rural county with only one, maybe two, elementary schools that even have students that live within one mile of the school! Our parent pick-up is done somewhat the same, but we have someone with a microphone that starts calling the kids from the gym. They are usually called about 2 to 3 cars at a time with someone usually opening the car door, especially for the little ones.

    We only have certain roads or neighboors that have bus stops. Other wise you are pick-up at your house. My sons walks to the end of our driveway each morning to catch the bus. We usually keep an eye on him because he has been know to play around and miss the bus!!

    As a former bus driver, I find that you put your child at more risk and waste more gas when you drive them. If you look at the numbers, more children are killed each year in car accidents going to and from school than are killed by school buses! Think about this–when you drive your kids to school you are paying for fuel TWICE. Your own and with your taxes, the school buses! It’s just a thought….

  120. Sophie September 1, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    My coworker can see his 10 year old son’s elementary school from his house. However, any kid caught walking will be warned then suspended because no sidewalks lead directly to the school. This includes walking with their parents. So now he rides the bus for almost an hour. Madness!

  121. Emiky September 1, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    Most kids in my condo complex… Walk. A few bike riders. The elementary school is down the road a little–on the opposite side of a busy road, yeah, but there’s an amazing system of crossing guards so it’s all good.

    When I worked at a school, the boundaries were weird, so yes, the kids who lived forever away had busing provided. But the buses had certain and specific boundaries.

    However, we had many walkers. I saw one kid who’s brother walked him the first few years–second grade, he walked two blocks on his own.

    We actually had rules on biking and skateboard areas, so many kids got to school those ways.

    The coolest I saw was a big wheel trend with the younger ones who lived within the neighborhood.

  122. Landres September 1, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    I also live in a gated community where parents drive their precious progeny down the street to the school bus stop. I don’t understand it, and I’m dying to tap on one of those windows and ask the parent (Mom, usually) the question MY mother would have asked me had I even dare suggest she drive me down the street to the bus: “Are your (child’s) legs CROCHETED on?”

    It is ridiculous. In the rain, I waited for the bus in a retro piece of technology called a RAINCOAT.

  123. Gin September 1, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    I think busses are the most popular here, with cars second. I do know some women who drive their children 2 blocks to the bus stop rather than let the… 4? 5? of them walk together down their cul-de-sac, but at least one of them gave up and just drove her son the half-mile to school instead because the bus was too scary. (This is in a community of about 2000 people.)
    I am pushing for the children of my neighborhood to bike to school together. My children bike the 1.5 miles sometimes, but I’d like to make it a regular, daily thing, weather-permitting. I have 3 children that will be going, there are 2 behind us, one across the street, and at least 2 more up the street. I see no reason for them not to take advantage of our wonderful bike trails (~2 blocks from our houses, directly to the school).

  124. Melinda Pulattie September 1, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    I drive my children to school in the morning. Our oldest is 8 and the youngest just started kindergarten and they fight alot!!! So they are not allowes to walk to school together. In the afternoon, our school does not allow pre-k and kindergarten to walk home so I pick up my youngest but our oldest walks the 3-4 blocks from school to the house. He is in second grade and walks with another second grader and his older brother. Our oldest feels like such a big kid for walking home and I am enjoying not having to wait in the “mommy line” with moronic parents who are going to run over someones child because of their impatience!!

  125. Sheila Keenan September 1, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    My son’s school is on the same street we live on, though quite a few blocks away. Probably a 10- to 15-minute walk, a five-minute bike ride, a one-minute car ride. Sad to say, I sometimes drive him to school, but only when we’re running late. Otherwise we bike together. I see lots of people walking to school, though it is usually kids accompanied by adults (either mom/dad or grandma/grandpa — we live in a neighbourhood where lots of families have three generations per household). Quite a few kids bike as well. My son is going into Grade 2. As far as I can tell, though I haven’t asked, kids in K, Gr. 1 and Gr. 2 have to be accompanied to and picked up from school by an adult. It seems teachers in these grades usually check to make sure the child is being picked up, otherwise they don’t let the child leave the school. Seems like Gr. 3 or 4 and up can go on their own (some do, some don’t). The middle school kids (gr. 5 and up) seem to go to and from on their own, unless their parents are picking them up in the car. Lots of parents do seem to do car drop-off and pick-up, though in some cases, I know it’s because they are going to or coming from work (the school is right at the crossroad to get to the main road out of our neighbourhood). I’ve asked my son if he wants to bike to school on his own; he says he wants me to come with him. If he did want to do it on his own, I’d have a talk with his school about making it happen. We do sometimes take different routes home and I feel safe letting him do this. I’ve told him about the “olden days” when I used to get to walk to school all by myself starting in kindergarten (1977). He said, “Wasn’t it dangerous because of the cars? Or wait, were there cars then?” Ha, ha, ha.

  126. Julie September 1, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    My 12 y.o. actually walks to school and we live on the Manhattan/Bronx border. He walks the entire quarter-mile or so, often by himself (although there are 900 or so other kids all going in the same direction and a crossing guard on every corner). I can see the school from our back windows, so I can see when he gets there (for my peace of mind) and he has a cell phone in case of a problem. Some times I walk part of the way with him, so I can catch the bus to work. His friends come from all over the City, so if they don’t walk, they take the subway or bus and walk the few extra blocks to the school. Very few parents drive their kids to school.

  127. j September 1, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    Everyone walks!! Our school is under construction and our new principal actually circulated a voicemail to all the families asking that they bike, scooter, walk, or even SKATEBOARD!!! I LOVE HIM! Our previous principal would never have done that. Some kids are picked up by their parents, but just as many get themselves home.

    My oldest, who is at middle school, rides his bike by himself. He also took himself to cross country tryouts and brought himself home.

    On a side note, my fourth grader biked himself to the neighborhood pool, swam with whomever was there, and biked himself home when the lifeguards left.

  128. Wombat94 September 1, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    At our girls’ school we have the EXACT dismissal/parent pick-up line described from the Florida… with one additional wrinkle… this year they have added the caveat that the line helpers cannot assist with buckling the kids in to their seats in the car when they get in.

    At first, this might look like a bit of free-rangey-ness (“Hey the kids can buckled themselves in”) – but I suspect that it is really a liability reducing move ordered by the school’s lawyers or risk-management people. If nobody who works for the school is involved in buckling the kids in, then the school can’t be liable for injuries if there is a car accident.

    As my wife said, at least they don’t have someone else at the line checking that the kids have buckled themselves in properly before ALLOWING you to drive off.

  129. Mallory September 1, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    In CA, we do not have buses, at least in our area. My niece took the public bus system starting in 6 grade, when her school was too far to walk. My kids go to a private Lutheran school and in 4th and 6th can and often do ride their bikes to school and to after school sports and so forth. It is not unheard of, but in the years we’ve been riding, we’ve gotten to know by sight the kids on our route that do this… it seems somewhat unusual. Pick up is by car, but fairly loose.

  130. Aimee September 1, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    I live in an urban, residential neighborhood in the city of St. Paul, MN. My kids attend a Catholic School with about 800 students K-8. We live about a half a block from school, and my kids walk to school on their own. Many kids walk to school, and many kids get driven by car. Maybe 20 kids take the school bus. For dismissal, parents with kids 1st – 4th grade have to submit a form where you check a box – are you picking up your child, are they going to the after school care, are they taking the bus or are they walking home on a walking line. We have 5 walking lines, each going in a different direction. The kids on each line meet at a specific hallway at school, and once everyone is there they are led out by a school patrol. The school patrol (a fifth grader) gets them across the busy streets around school and then the kids disperse and walk home the rest of the way. Once the kids are in 5th grade the school doesn’t ask how they are getting home.
    Kindergartners must be dismissed to an adult.

  131. Stacey JW September 1, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Now that Ive read the comments, I can truly say I am stunned. Are there that many SAHP’s that they can live their life around the kids transportation schedule? Growing up my best friends were raised by a professional mom, who made them get up and get to school on their own. My own mom woke me up, after which I was on my own. this started in about 4th grade. And we better not be late or miss the bus, you got serious punishment for this! No one got driven! I plan on making my kids get to and from school without me from as early of an age as possible! I will not be their chauffeur. besides, Both dh and I will have to work, and not every employer is so flexible.

    Also, I didn’t know anyplace still bussed for segregation reasons. I’ve never seen this, and would be really irritated if my kid has to go across town instead of 2blocks away. Between that, the school that wont let your kid off the bus w/o a parent, and crazy walkie talkies, I can see why people homeschool. Work will prevent me from HS, but I can see the attraction after readimg these things. if the school is so crazy about how the kids get there, what else will they be over the top about???

    and to second the person who said this earlier- all this and we womder why there is an obesity epidemic. DUH!!!

  132. Elizabeth F. September 1, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    We are Canadian.

    At the High School (grades 10-12) my son will start attending on Thursday there are some kids who walk, but most arrive by bus or car. What shocked me was that there are NO bike racks around the school. We live not quite 2 kilometres away and while my son will walk to school in the winter it would save him time to ride his bike until the snow falls.

    When I inquired about whether or not he was allowed to lock his bike up to the railings on outdoor staircases I was told that if he really wanted to ride his bike he could bring it into the school and leave it in his teacher-advisor’s office.

    Really? So few kids ride to school that they want them to bring the bikes inside?? These kids are 15 to 18 years old!


  133. Virginia September 1, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    There are no rules in my northern California school district about how kids can or can’t get to school. They do have to be picked up by a known adult through first grade, but starting in second grade they’re dismissed at the classroom door. The culture here, however, is that most kids are accompanied to and from school at least through third grade. Starting in fourth grade, a small number of kids walk or bike to school on their own. And starting in middle school (sixth grade), most kids who live close enough to the school walk or bike there without parental supervision.

    A couple of years ago, an elementary school student was hit by a car as he was riding his bike to school. He wasn’t too severely injured–I think he had a broken arm–and fortunately, it didn’t lead to any calls to get kids off their bikes! That’s the only such incident I heard about in the nine years I had kids at that school, which I think is basically a pretty good safety record.

  134. Amy September 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    The wackiest story I can tell you is my friend who has a daughter in 3rd grade. After school the girl attends a day care for a few hours at the nearby community center. When I say ‘nearby,’ I really mean it. The school’s playground backs up to the community center. To get from school to the community center is a less than 5 minute walk, and she never even has to cross a single street, she just walks through the school’s field and then through the community center’s yard and then she’s there.

    So my friend thought it would be great to have her walk. Short, easy, safe… no problem. But the school won’t allow it. The principal says he is ‘uncomfortable with the idea.’ I don’t have any idea why the principal’s comfort level is even an issue, but they won’t release the girl to let her walk.

    So the school has arranged for a van to drive this girl. It drives the very very short distance and picks her up and drives her to the community center.

    Is this sane? Is it even safer? What about issues like promoting her independence and giving her at least a little exercise?

  135. Sunny1 September 1, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    The part about stopping at each house? SO true! On my drive to work if i leave a few minutes late I end up directly behind a bus and the kids are each in front of their own house within shouting distance of each other, carrying on conversations! One house is set back and the mother sits at the end of the driveway in her car w/ the two girls and they dont get out til the bus pulls up! so we all wait in traffic while they say their goodbyes and stroll (stroll!!) to the bus. Adds 10 minutes to my commute, easy, when school starts. RIduculous!

  136. Marybeth September 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    My kids walk to school. Fortunately, they have to go down the steep hill to get to school. (I’m sure the complaints would be endless if they had to go up the hill to get to school.)

    The downside to our system is that you must be in 4th grade or above to ride a bike to school. If a student is younger than 4th grade, they can ride to school with an adult but cannot bring the bike on to campus-the adult has to take it home. That defeats the “get to school on your own” plan.

  137. nicky September 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Here in Australia, my 6 year old son’s school is located in a new subdivision with a lot of construction of new houses going on around it. We’re at the end of a very wet winter here (welcome after years of drought) and the mud has been unbelievable! Parents jockey to park their cars as close to the school as possible to avoid the mud and because the footpaths are blocked in places.

    The school moved to this location at the start of the year and the principal all but pleaded with parents to have their children either walk or cycle to school to avoid dangerous traffic. A lot of children do, but I would say that the majority are still driven and the traffic around the school is dreadful at the start and end of the day. There are a few children who are bussed in from a semi-rural area a few km away, but apart from that, there’s no school bus and probably won’t be.

    I drive my son because we live 2.5km from the school and it’s too far for him to walk – I think he could do the distance, but it would take far too long. I expect to be doing that for at least several more years as my daughter will start school in 2012. As my free-ranging effort I’ve been dropping my son outside the school and getting him to walk in on his own, rather than walking him to his classroom. When the weather improves and the construction work starts to die down, I’ll park further from the school and walk part of the way with him, leaving him to finish the trip on his own.

    There is a public bus that stops several hundred meters from the school gate so my ultimate plan in a few years is to teach both kids to take the bus to and from school on their own. We would be using it now, but they only run every 40 minutes which would either get my son to school half an hour early (none of his friends would be there and no teachers on site to supervise) or 10 minutes late. The same applies after school – he would either have to leave early or wait ages for a bus home when the car trip takes around five minutes. I’m hoping that as this area grows the timetables will be reviewed so that they run more frequently and at times that fit the school start and finish times.

  138. Tennessean September 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Sorry I keep posting in this thread. I was thinking about this and the comments on stopping at each house. Our school bus, before they changed the practice because of fuel, would stop at our street, which is a few hundred feet long, and let off kids from two households. The bus would then pull forward 20 feet to a house that was on the main road to let off the kids who lived at that house, making another stop. I would watch this every day, amazed. The bus driver was not allowed to let off the children at that house on our road. They had to pull forward 20 feet and let them off right in front of their front door. It was so surreal. Then they changed the policy, but I think those kids also got older and graduated so the second stop wasn’t needed anymore anyway.

  139. Vicki September 1, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    I have to drive my K daughter to school because we live 17 miles away and there’s no bus from our neighborhood. In the afternoon I enter the school driveway and wave to my daughter who’s sitting on the walk with her class. Then I sit in the carpool line that snakes around the school for about 40 minutes. It’s hot, sometimes 100 degrees. She’s sitting in the shade at least, and I have to keep the engine running so I have air coniditioning. Oh, and the principal has decreed that parents are not to talk on their cell phones while they wait. Finally I arrived at the pick up spot, they only load four cars at a time. They read the sign on my windshield and call out her name on the loudspeaker. They open the door for her to get in, but DO NOT BUCKLE her in her car seat. She has a disability and can’t buckle it herself. Parents aren’t allowed to get out of their cars so I have to drive around the corner, then get out and buckle her in.

  140. Matt September 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    According to Google Maps, it would take two hours and fifty-four minutes for an adult to walk the route from our home to school. We drive our first grader, which takes 20 minutes under optimal conditions. Everybody who has a good neighborhood school, thank your lucky stars. We can’t even carpool because of our work schedules.

    At school, it’s fairly sane, but we are required to walk the children to the classroom and sign them in/out, for whatever reason. I am not so happy with the park-and-walk routine from the perspective of time, but I am happy to share a little bit of a pseudo-walk to school with my son, such as it is, for the joint experience.

  141. Matt September 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    To Vicki: the school can’t do that to you. This is dangerous for your daughter and schools are required to make sensible accommodations for safety with disabled kids (none of my kids could unbuckle or buckle their car seats at five, anyway, with no physical disabilities). You have to have a heart to heart with your principal about this and stick to your guns that it’s insane not to have your child buckled in to her car seat.

  142. Donna September 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    I love that you’re getting an international perspective in some of these comments. We just moved from Beijing, China, where the kids walked or rode their bikes to and from the bus stop – about a 10 minute walk. But now we live in Amman, Jordan, which is deemed a high-threat terrorist kind of place, and the bus picks them up right in front of our door. It’s taking some getting used to for all of us, because in China, the kids could wander the streets alone for hours and I never had to worry about where they were. Here, I’m still trying to find ways to keep them “free range.”

  143. Jo1750 September 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    My “favorite” thing to watch at our school (Austin, TX) is the number of cars FOLLOWING the bus (that already has picked up their children) to school. The parents then park and walk into the school to meet their children and walk them to their classrooms. I’m not fortunate enough to live outside of the 2 mile radius that qualifies you for bus service (we live 1.8 miles from the school and are categorized as “walkers”). If I was eligible for bus pick up I certainly would not be driving behind the bus to meet my kids at school. I also think that given the fact that our elementary school starts it’s day at 7:45am it is very optimistic to expect me to get my 2nd grader, kindergartner and 2 year old to walk and be on time everyday – particularly since the 2 year old would be walking back home with me – the school won’t provide crossing guards for my 6 and 7 year old and I honestly don’t think they would be able to manage the walk on their own without any crossing guards. Needless to say I drive them to school and try to carpool with as many people as possible to alleviate excess traffic at the school. Bikes hopefully will enter the equation once my six year old can manage the hills.

  144. JC September 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    To the poster who said that kids in NZ are acting as crossing guards….we had that at every school I went to growing up (California) and they also have it here at elementary schools in Portland Oregon.
    My son is picked up by the bus at our house because he has autism and the school with the best program is not close enough for us to walk or bike to. BUT when we did go to our neighborhood school we walked there (about half a mile).

    I have to say about all of these people who are so paranoid….it’s ridiculous–the driving to the bus stop, down driveways, in golf carts, etc. My son has autism as I said (he’s very high functioning Asperger’s but still–the kid has autism) and we walked to school. We also bus, bike all over the city, in bike lanes, on major roads, etc. and he’s 8. As it is I’m trying to get the kid to ride around the block by himself but he’s too afraid. That’s from his anxiety that goes with the autism, not because of me. I push that kid to be independent–I send him into stores to pay for things on his own, etc. There is no reason ANY kid can’t be independent, disability or not. It drives me crazy to hear these stories!

    And in a totally cool free range kids moment, we moved to San Francisco when I was 13 right as summer started. We’d moved from suburban LA where all you do is drive everywhere. My mother got me a bus pass, went to work, left me a bus map and told me I better not sit home all day. So I went all over the city on the bus that summer and learned San Fran like the back of my hand. And I’m grateful she did it!

  145. justanotherjen September 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Today was only the first day of school here and I didn’t notice anything odd. I walked my kids to the bus stop at the end of our street only because it’s the first time the 7 and 8 year olds had ever ridden a bus and they were all a little nervous about starting a new school.
    From now on they walk themselves to the bus stop just as all the other kids (between 1st and 5th grades) did. There were only 2 other moms out there and both had 1st graders and the one lived right in front of the bus stop so she was just standing in her driveway.
    And I’ve informed them that if they miss the bus they have to walk the 2 miles to the school because I’m not getting the baby (7 weeks now) and my 4yo out especially if it’s raining (I don’t have my own car).

    At their old school in Chicago we were one of the few walking families and lived about 3 blocks from the school. Last March they started walking alone to school but the school wouldn’t allow them to leave without an adult because they decided it wasn’t safe for kids under the age of 10 (5th grade) to walk alone. Sigh.
    There was this woman I knew who lived 2 blocks from the school and every morning she drove her kids. Turn right at the end of her block, turn right onto the street the school was on, drop kids off, turn right and go down a block and turn right again and park in front of her house. Took her about a minute and her kids were LATE every single day. Geesh.

    The craziest helicopter type thing I saw was the girl that lived directly across the street from the entrance to the school. She was in 5th grade last year and every single day I watched her come out of her house and wait at the curb for her mother. Her mother would then take her hand and walk her across the street and stand right next to her in line until she went in. Then every day the mother would come out and wait in the parking lot with the other parents (mind you 5th graders were allowed to leave on their own without a parent being there). She would then take her daughter’s hand and walk her home across the street.
    I just shook my head every single day. If it hadn’t been for the stupid school rule about no walking alone before 5th grade my kids would have been walking home by themselves, too.
    I hated having to go over to the school every afternoon (I was pregnant most of the last school year and school got out right when I was most tired and needed a nap) when my kids were perfectly capable of walking on their own (they were in 1st, 2nd and 4th grades last year).

  146. Mari September 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    A report form Norway;

    When school started two weeks ago a national traffic safety organization and the police reminded parents to walk their kids to school for the first year, then let them manage on their own. Why? Because parents driving their kids to school are the greatest safety risk for other kids.

    Most children in urban Norway live close enough to walk to school on their own, a 2 kilometer walk is not considered too far.

  147. Debbie September 1, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    I run a ‘walking school bus’ at our local school in NZ- aimed at getting children walking, but in a group and with an adult. It’s a great social way to get to school – we walk about 1km each way. We always have a parent or two walking with the kids. We have some parents that drive their kids to the start of the route as they live quite a bit further away. One such parent drops her 2 children to walk, then proceeds to drive their BAGS to school!!! and waits there so she can give the kids their bags! Where’s the logic in that?!

  148. Debbie September 1, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    Just been reading more comments – we are sooo lucky in NZ in my area. Our school is a ‘Travelwise’ school – we encourage kids to use sustainable transport – walk, bike, scooter etc. We have wheels day at school every Monday and Friday – kids can bring thewir skateboards, bikes, scooters and zoom around the school courts. We are supported and encouraged in our travelwise ways by the local council and transport authority. They have helped us put in more bike racks, safer footpaths etc. Did you know it is world car free day on Wednesday 22nd September? It’s a good excuse to get a few people together and try to get the kids to school another way – bus, bike, walk…enjoy!

  149. Rachel September 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Kids in my town walk or bike to school, mine are too small to go on their own, but they start going on their own by age 5. My 4 year old can’t wait to go by herself. It is common to find the 5 year old take the 2 year old to school.

    I live in Israek in a type of community called a Yishuv (similar to a moshav, We are located on the north of Israel near the Syrian border. We have a very different perspective on risk and danger

  150. Jodi September 1, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    I used to live two blocks from the school where I teach and would walk past the houses where many of our students live. They wear a uniform, so they’re easy to spot. One day I witnessed a mother and daughter leave the house lying kitty-corner from the school, get in the car, and drive to the school door.

    Similarly, a colleague whose daughter attends the school lives quite close. One day they were walking together to school when they saw another student get dropped off. My colleague’s daughter knew they lived quite close; turning to her mother, she said, “I feel so sorry for that girl!” Asked her mother, “Why?” Reply, “Because her legs mustn’t work properly.”

  151. Rin September 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    yea, that actually happens in my school! We’re an international school where elementary, middle and high school is joined together. The same treatment given to elementary school is given to middle school – the calling out names etc etc.

  152. Babs September 1, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    I am dreading the return to school next week; our block has been relatively quiet during the summer, with the exception of “summer enrichment” (which ran for a few weeks in July) and rerouting of traffic off the main drag (a busy county road to which our street connects) a few times.

    My situation is that I live a decent block’s walk away from school. Unfortunately, the majority of those who go to this school feel compelled to drive their kids, even when walking is more convenient. Explain to me why most SAHMs cannot fit in time to do this twice daily, yet have time to go to kickboxing/Pilates/yoga.

    My town is one square mile, population about 10,000. We have two elementary schools, but all town kids of pre-K/Kindergarten age go to the annex that is attached to ‘my’ school. (Elementary school runs from grades 1-6; we have one middle school and one high school, both which are shared with another township, and are a distance from me.)

    I can understand if someone lives across town has to do the daily driving thing for their Kindergartener, but the number of cars which are clogging up my street (for the pickup line for Kindergarten, or parking to pick up their kids from the elementary school) twice daily is ridiculous. It’s a challenge to get in/out of our driveways and get around the streets near the school during those hours of 8-8:45 and 2:30-3:15.

    Right now, I am walking my 6 1/2 y.o. to school daily — I’ll let her go on her own (with a friend or two) when I feel she is more alert. Kids have a tendency to dawdle and not pay attention at that age. The older kids tend to go on their own (via foot/;bicycle), I notice — but not sure how many do.

    FWIW: we do have crossing guards, but no school buses. Yet only a small percentage of the total school population actually walks. We have an annual “Walk Your Child to School” day, but no real action has been taken with regard to encouraging walking school buses, etc. Our infrastructure lends itself nicely to the concept (there are sidewalks everywhere). Even the mayor has tried, to no avail, to encourage walking. With the surprising amount of plumpish kids I see around (there were way too many jiggling bellies on young kids at the swim club this summer), this should be a good motivator!

  153. L. Vellenga September 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    my kids (8 & 6) walk the three or so blocks to school (in quasi-suburban new jersey). with a parents’ note on file the older one may pick up the younger one after school and they walk home as well. the older one loves having the responsibility! there is a crossing guard at the one busy road and lots of kids in the neighborhood form a sort of walking caravan. otherwise there are buses and cars, but no bikes, strangely. in the past i’ve picked them up when it’s been raining; this year they will each receive a new umbrella.

  154. Orielwen September 1, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    After reading all these comments, I’m very relieved to live where I do (Scotland)! There’s a primary school that I pass on my way to work, and judging by what I see as I walk past in the mornings I’d say that at least half the kids walk there, many by themselves. There’s a separate, pedestrian-only, pupils’ entrance (giving into the playground at the back), removed from the vehicle access (which takes you to the front door), so there’s no danger of kids being run over by cars coming to drop off other kids (and even then, I’ve never seen the sort of crush that’s described in some of the other posts – only one or two cars). The school encourages walking – even if you need to take the car for part of the way you’re encouraged to park at the supermarket up the road and walk from there (park and stride, they call it). There are also two large covered bike racks.

    I’m never walking past at the time kids get out, but I can’t imagine it would be much different from their arriving.

  155. Marsha September 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    I grew up in the middle of nowhere… the smallest town in my state! My public school (k-6) had between 50 and 60 kids total. Because everyone lived in the country, there were no bus stops. The bus stopped at each family’s home individually. Except for the 3 or 4 kids that lived right near the school, who walked alone or with older kids. The individual bus pick up wasn’t a safety concern, it was simply because we were all so scattered on the dirt roads around the town, that if there were group bus stops, it would be just as easy if not easier for parents to drive kids all the way to school. And other than the few kids who lived right near the school, forget walking. I was one of the last pickups in the morning (therefore closest to school) and it was still about 5 miles to school from my house. I took the bus most of the time when I was younger, but as I got older my mom would drive me more often because I was very severely bullied on the bus. If I could have walked or ridden my bike, I would have, and I’m sure I would have been allowed to.

  156. Susan September 1, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    I posted above about how I am a radical mom at my school for letting my kids walk by themselves even though the school is about 200 yards from our house.

    Our neighborhood would probably be classified as upper middle class. Yesterday afternoon, I happened to be driving through a lower middle class neighborhood a couple of miles from our house. It is in the same town and zip code as we are. It was a few minutes after school let out and I was amazed by the number of kids walking home. I probably saw 50 elementary-aged kids walking in the neighborhood across the street from the school and I only saw one parent! It is night and day from our neighborhood. There is hope for our town!

  157. erika September 1, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    My kids take the bus. But many, many parents I know will not allow their children on the bus because it is so dangerous?!?! I do not know what they think will happen, but they can not risk their childs saftey, so they drive. Driving which means waiting for 30 minutes( we have 800 students) to drop their children off – or parking and walking them into the school building. These poor children can not do a thing without their parent. /Honestly it is very sad.

  158. Simone September 1, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    To Skye: why did you copy my story? strange….
    You live in the Netherlands and you have a 4 and 6-year old as well?

  159. pentamom September 1, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    @Vicki, that is insane. Besides what Matt said, school principals do not have authority to tell people whether they can, or cannot, get into or out of their own cars. I understand that they might make it “against procedure” because if people did it commonly, it would slow everything down. But there is no way they can stop you if you just do it, for the safety of your child. The LAW that kids cannot be in a moving vehicle unbuckled supersedes the principal’s need for efficient procedure, and even if there were not a law, basic safety of that sort supersedes efficiency as well.

    I’d do what Matt says — go in, and talk to the principal, and explain that it is unacceptable the way things are now. Hopefully, that will resolve things amicably. If he insists on his own position, get out and buckle your child in anyway. There is nothing anyone can do to you.

  160. pentamom September 1, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    I mean, if more people did it than necessary — if people got in and out of their cars for no good reason, it would be bad. It’s not bad if everyone who really needs to, gets out to buckle in their kids if they’re not able to do it themselves.

  161. Serena September 1, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    In my village (yeah, village) the bus stops at every house and picks kids up/drops them off. No bus stop. However, since I do live right in the village and so close to the school, there is no bus for children in 4th grade and up because they go to school 1 hour earlier than the K-3rd graders. So my son, who is entering 5th grade, walked or rode his bike every day last year and will do the same until he graduates high school. But, also being a free-range parent my son is home alone from 6 am when I leave for work until 7:30 am when he leaves for school. He is also home alone in the afternoons from about 2:20 till 2:45 when my husband gets home. I do see many children walking or riding bikes in the village when I’m off work sick or whatever.

  162. Mitsabushi September 1, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    The “car rider line” at our school is the same as you have described above, Lenore.

    Cars single file, all kids are in a holding pen inside the building, assigned staff member walkie talkies into the other assigned staff member in the holding pen area and sends Johnny/Susie on his/her way out to the idling SUV, minivan etc. We are in the suburbs of DC, by the way.

    Family in Florida describes the same golf cart method too! I do believe, that nearly all communities in Florida (exclusive or not) are gated. Not sure what is up with that…

  163. Emilie September 1, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    We live a block from our school, directly across the street from the back end of the playground. As a working mom, my son walks to and from school. I have driven him, against my will, when he was tired and lamenting about the long walk down the street. Lots of the parents do drive their kids to school, which, in my opinion, makes for a more dangerous situation. With the number of cars and pedestrians crammed onto that street in the morning it is almost impossible to get through that area. Last year they even had to have police come to enforce traffic bylaws on parents who drive their kids to school and park in the bus lane to drop them off or walk them in. Not sure what else to say about that!

  164. Barb September 1, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    When my kids were in elementary school we lived in base housing, both me and my husband were in the Air Force, where the rules stated that kids had to be 10 to be left alone at home or 12 to watch smaller kids, so until then they were dropped off at day care and all the kids walked to school with a day care teacher, who picked them up after school and walked them back to the day care, we lived about 4 blocks from the day care. When each kid turned 10 they were on their own, we got them up before we left for work, fed them and then they walked to school from the house, about 8 blocks and heaven forbid across a major street. They actually knew how to use a cross walk on their own! Then then walked home. They are now both grown and very appreciative that they were raised free range!

  165. Jennifer September 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    If you live within 2 miles of your school, in our district, you don’t get bus service. Based on the length of the dropoff line at our elementary school, I suspect most parents who live in that 2 mile area drive their kids, but our daughter (5th grade) walks. My son (2nd grade) has special needs, and the school bus drops him off at our house (he’s bussed to a different elementary school further away), and when he started kindergarten, my husband realized he couldn’t be home when the bus dropped our son off AND go pick up my daughter at the same time. However, we live 8 blocks from her school- so we decided to let my daughter start walking to and from school. She almost immediately on her own found a friend or two to walk with, and she loves the independence. My husband loved not having to drive 8 blocks twice a day through a school zone to wait in line 30 minutes. However, the pickup procedure is pretty much how you describe it, for kids who are picked up by parents. One thing I found amusing this year was that parents of walkers were asked “how is your child going to get home if it’s raining?” Use an umbrella? get a little wet? Sing in the rain? If we’re having a torrential downpour, my husband told her to wait at the school and he’d get her after our son is dropped off, but other than that- walk home!

  166. Michelle Cantrell September 1, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    With over 100 comments, I’m not sure you’ll even get to this one, but our school system cracks me up. Our elementary school is literally in our backyard — when you step through our gate, we are technically on school property. And yet, there is a bus for our neighborhood, mostly because for people who can’t cut through yards, the school is about a mile away. (Yes, we walk through our back yard to get to school.)

    But even more ridiculous is this — directly across from our school is a neighborhood of townhomes. In between the neighborhood and the school is a two lane road — but it has double lines. Well, it just so happens that any road with double lines is considered a highway. And because our laws (not sure if its state or local) dictate that an elementary aged child cannot cross a highway to get to school, there is no crossing guard, and instead they take a bus. So every morning, there are a few kids standing across the street from the school waiting for the bus (I know some parents in the neighborhood, and most walk their kids themselves) — which doesn’t even take them directly to school. I guess it seemed to ridiculous to do that, so they are the first stop on a route that picks up other kids in other neighborhoods before the bus makes its way back to the school. I am laughing even as I write this because it is so ridiculous. If you want, I can even try and take a picture of it one morning.

  167. Molly September 1, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    Our elementary school does the placard/pick up thing when it is raining. Apparently the kids will melt if they stand outside to wait for their parents, so they are all herded into the gym to wait for their name to be called. We live 3 houses from the school so I always tell the teacher that my children CAN walk home, even in the rain, because I WILL NEVER drive up. But inevitably they get waylaid by another teacher and sent to the gym. The end result is that I have to walk up to the school to get them to walk home, thus 3 of us are wet instead of 2. I’m not going to melt either, but how did their process protect my kids? They still had to walk, and they still got wet.

    I have seen plenty of parents stand at the bus stops waiting with their kids in the morning. The buses do not stop at each house, but generally at the intersections of streets, so the kids are not walking more than a block. I confess I did stand on the driveway on the first day of school this year when my oldest started middle school, but that was to make sure the bus actually showed up…ever since then I just shoo her out the door.

    The elementary school rules are that kids are to be escorted until third grade, and no bikes before then either, but I haven’t seen that being enforced. My second grader walks by herself and I haven’t been busted (yet).

  168. Uly September 2, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    Okay, you have to see this article about using GPS check-ins for students riding the bus:,0,3594199.story

  169. Kelly September 2, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Just last year bus service was discontinued in my area (taxes went up, however!). My children are picked up in the morning by a neighbor and I do the afternoon pick up. I work nights and am not home in time 3 mornings a week to see my kids off and my husband must be to work by 0730. There are NO KIDS ALLOWED at the school until 0755. This means my kids are home alone for approximately 30-40 minutes. Funny thing… when I am home to see them off, it is sheer chaos as they tend to regress when I am around (normal!).When they are responsible for getting themselves out the door they are ready 15-20 minutes early and have time to sit on the couch and watch a bit of TV beore heading out. They really can stand on their own two feet!! As far as letting them walk, the school is 2 miles away. Not too far, but far enough. We also received information via a community e-mail, that a man in a green suburban was riding around the neighborhood asking children where he might get a cup of coffee.

  170. Joanne Houldsworth September 2, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    Our elementary school is very close, so we always try to walk or ride bicycles, but we are definitely in the minority. Almost all kids are driven door to door. When my boys were in 3rd and 5th grades respectively, I let them ride by themselves, but now that their younger sibling has joined them, I accompany them on my bike too. The school discourages kids under 4th grade from riding their bikes, but I ignore that rule. I believe the bike riding is great exercise, but also helps their independence and the environment!
    There is a Special Ed bus that picks up kids right at their houses, but other than that, you must live 2 miles from the school to be eligible for busing, and then pick-up is at a central neighborhood location.
    (Located in Bergen Co., NJ)

  171. BJ September 2, 2010 at 12:46 am #

    My kids walk to school. However, we live on the edge of town, technically, not in city limits. The school is literally 200 yards from my driveway. When we moved here 3 years ago, the school said that since we lived “out of town,” my kids would have bussing to/from school. Kids who live in the north part of town literally walk by my driveway on the other side of the street to school are not offered bussing. I make an exception with our bus driver every year to indicate that my kids will not be riding the school bus. They can walk. They can even cut across the pasture between the school and our house and don’t even have to walk along the road!

  172. Tracie September 2, 2010 at 12:47 am #

    In addition to the many kids who are driven to school around here, there are lots who walk and bike on their own as well as many whose parents walk or bike with them. Among the driving and walking parents, a number of them walk their child onto campus and all the way to their classrooms each day, which seems silly to me given that the kids have to go out to the playground to line up with their classes anyway. I would say almost all kids K-3 and probably more than 50% of upper grade kids are escorted to school by adults in one way or another. There is no bussing.

    I started allowing my kids to walk back and forth together starting when my daughter was in 4th grade and my son in 1st. I got lots of comments from people about it, but I pointed out that the school was practically right around the corner from our house and the kids felt confident about it.

    One major issue in our district is that there are a lot of special programs in the elementary schools – GATE, Montessori, Spanish Immersion – that result in kids attending schools in distant parts of town rather than their neighborhood schools. This obviously creates more driving around, with some crazy parents driving to delivering children to 2 or 3 schools every morning. I guess that’s a whole FreeRange issue, but it does impact transportation.

  173. Pat Childers September 2, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    when we had just one son in elementary school, my wife would walk him and I would pick him up via skateboard or tandem bicycle. Now that we have multiple children we are in the midst of implementing a safe routes to school program that includes a neighborhood walking wednesday and afterschool cycling events and a walking clubs.

    Even in a school where all the children are less than 2 miles away we still have the long line of cars dropping and picking up students.

  174. Babs September 2, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    Here’s another thing no one has mentioned — have you heard about the parents who actually FOLLOW the bus once their kids get picked up? Just read an article about how to prepare your children for school and the writer (formerly a teacher) admits she will be among the moms who will follow the school bus TO SCHOOL on her child’s first day. I am not making this up! (I’m convinced that some people do this; I used to drop my daughter off at a communal spot for the bus to summer camp, and I swear that one mother was actually following the bus to be sure her child was headed to camp –never mind that the bus had, besides the driver, two monitors!)

    And I’ve seen the parents waiting at the stop with their kids — whatever happened to just dropping them off? We’re not talking about 6 y.o. kids; this was a teenage girl I saw waiting for her bus to the Catholic high school last spring. I was pretty flabbergasted, esp. after she got picked up, and her mom drove the two blocks back to home.

  175. Angela September 2, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    @Vicki, @pentamom – wow, crazy! It’s not just your kid that can’t buckle themselves in….here in Canada, we have MANY kindergartens (and older!) kids still in 5-point harness carseats – ours goes up to 80 lbs, and while it is not the law to have your kid in past 40 lbs, many parents choose those carseats anyway (I’m sure it’s the same in the US). My daughter is 5 YO and 43 lbs, and we’ll keep her in the 5-point harness carseat as long as she’ll put up with it (or until she outrgows it!) So, I always have to buckle her in.

    @Vicki – by all means, I say, get out of your car to buckle her in, if you have to! It’s crazy you aren’t permitted to do that.

  176. Christi September 2, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    I’m pretty fond of dismissal procedures at my school.

    Bus Procedure:

    During the first two weeks of school, bus kids in K-4 get a colored necklace that matches a colored sign that stands outside of their bus (we have 12 different bus companies, because we’re a private school, and not all of our students read English, so the colors really help!). At the end of the first day, teachers help their students find their busses (in 1st grade they do this every day for the first week)– after that, there are two teachers with bus duty out on the sidewalk helping lost students find their busses.

    After the first two weeks of school, when the final bell rings, students 1-12 are dismissed. As in the teacher opens the classroom door, says, “See you tomorrow!” and then watches as the children walk out of the room to find their parents/bus/bike/sneakers/friend’s parents/skateboard/etc.

    KG parents still come to the classroom to retrieve their young.

  177. abbie September 2, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    Our neighborhood must be behind the times because the buses here in Waunakee, WI still only drop kids off at corners or stop signs, not at their house. And when school gets out our streets are flooded with scooters, bikes, roller blades, skate boards and even walkers! My daughters and I love sitting out in front of the house at school dismissal time to wave and say hello to all the older kids.

    I am excited for my youngest to start kindergarten in a few years because the school that she will go to is just a few blocks away and I fully plan on having her walk or ride her bike everyday, even in the winter! Call me a bad mom but I think it will be good for her!!

  178. kherbert September 2, 2010 at 2:59 am #


    1. They don’t walk home because their homes are across a 4 lane black top highway with 65 mph limit.

    2. We DO NOT want them parking in the lot – we want them going through the line. A. there is not enough spaces for them to park. There aren’t enough spaces for teachers to park. My school has 700 kids 2 yo (Special program) – 5th graders. We have 3 life skills classrooms that we intergrate as much as possible. A large number of our students who are pick ups are transfers not eligable for busing.

  179. Chelsea September 2, 2010 at 3:05 am #

    The family I worked for (I am a nanny) prior to my current job sent their children (5 & 7yo) to a private school that not only had the exact pick up routine that you (Lenore) explained but also had an 8 foot privacy (the kids could not see out/no one could see in) fence around the whole entire school. To get in you either had to show your id to a security guard or, if the guard was not there, you had to insert a code into a box, which changed every month. Keep in mind this is a school in a middle class suburb (30 minutes from the city) of San Francisco. Very very safe area, small school, relatively small town.

    Now, I watch 3 children (11,14,16yo). They all, for many years, ride their bikes to and from school (all at different school) as well as all of their after school activities. I know they’re older so this makes sense but they all have friends that live just as close to school as they do who get driven by their parents every day.

    With that said, these kids NEVER play outside with neighborhood kids. Everything is planned in advanced. Which is totally sad.

  180. Camille September 2, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    My 11 year old daughter’s school is just over 1 mile and it’s on the other side of a busy street, so there is a bus. It stops at the end of the street, about 1/2 block from our house. I have not seen parents supervising their kids at the bus stop, but I did have someone very unhappy with me yesterday when I said that if my daughter misses the bus, she can just walk home.

  181. Barbara September 2, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    In Sacramento, CA a lot of kids in the older more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods walk and bike to school. I see nearly 100 kids each day walking and/or biking to school, of course I witness this everyday because I live 1 block from an elementary school :). Kids of all ages from kindergarten up to 5th grade walk some in groups, some with parents or siblings and some on their own.

    As for older kids many more of them are going to be walking soon since many of the public bus routes they used to take to school have been cut back or some discontinued completely, and there is not school bus service available for middle or high school kids! Some of these kids are going to have no option but walk 3+ miles each way, though there is some evidence of carpools forming but many of the families I’m talking about don’t have access to a personal auto.

    The only buses we have here that go to each child’s individual home are those that are for special education students and/or students with limited physical mobility.

    I was only driven to school occasionally in high school, but that was only because my high school was 10 miles away and I had missed the school bus since the stop was more than a mile from my house! The rest of my childhood I either rode the school bus, walked or rode my bike to school.

  182. JRB September 2, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    A little part of me died when I read about those helicopter moms with their stupid golf cart in a GATED STINKIN’ COMMUNITY, and that horrible school that yes, very well did seem like a dictatorship! What in the heck is WRONG with people?!?!
    I guess it chalks up to media shock.. you know, when a kid is missing, they make it seem like you gotta watch your kids 24/7 cause there’s “bad guys” out there. Hey, didn’t you know you could get kidnapped walking a few FEET to your mom’s car? Oh puh-lease.
    Anyway, in my neighborhood, kids ride the bus to school. As much as I’d love a walking district, I don’t know if it’s possible as the streets around here are pretty busy… but hey, they can hire crossing guards can’t they? Yeah, it definately is possible after all. My worry is that the helicopter parents will be all freaky and attempt to sue or something.
    Most of the kids do walk to their bus stop alone, though. But I’ve heard that if you need to pick your kid up early from school, you’ve gotta be buzzed in and then wait in line to sign a paper so they know you’re not some pervert. (Ugh.) It’s not as bad as that one school, though. My heart sunk so deep when I read about that.
    Oh, and while kids in my neighborhood are bused to school, there is a town a few minutes away that is a walking district. Actually, I know of three towns close by where kids walk to school. (I live in Southern New Jersey in the suburbs of Philadelphia. All the towns are very safe.)
    I do see lots of kids in my neighborhood outside though, and some bike up in groups to the stores. I’m just glad there are still kids left who aren’t helicoptered.

  183. molly September 2, 2010 at 3:58 am #

    My daughter is in a magnet middle school in suburban Atlanta. She rides a shuttle bus that picks up kids at the local middle school and takes them directly to the magnet school. The only students riding the bus are 7th and 8th grade students who qualify as “high achievers.” When the bus returns in the afternoon, no student is allowed to exit the bus unless a parent is physically standing at the bus door. Thirteen year old “high achievers” are not trusted to get off the bus and walk across the parking lot to their car or wait for their parents to pick them up. (In most cases the kids live too far to walk to the shuttle location, so it is reasonable that parents pick them up.)

  184. Mandy September 2, 2010 at 4:27 am #

    The car-rider line with walkie talkies is what they do at my son’s private school and the public schools around here. People can also walk or bike and many do. Instead of going through the half-hour long car line, I park nearby and walk to the door. We’re in Louisville, KY.
    Last year we lived in Ann Arbor, MI, where the bell rings and all the kids pour out the doors. My then-first grader walked home alone. I’d say at least half the kids walked most days but he was the only 1st grader who didn’t have a parent with him. There might have been some 2nd graders doing it and there were definitely 3-5 graders walking alone.

    For whoever said that many kindergartners are in 5-pt. harnesses and can’t buckle themselves, both of my boys were in 5-pts. in K (my littlest is now) and could buckle and unbuckle their carseats before then. It just takes a little practice. Obviously I’m not talking about the little girl with the disability but I think it’s important for them to be able to do it ASAP (so they can get out in case of an accident).

  185. AnnMarie September 2, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    My Nutmeg starts kindergarten tomorrow and we got to visit school with her today. I wouldn’t have believed the wait in line, call on a walkie talkie except that a Mom asked if that’s how it worked here!

    But yes, the bus stops at every single house here in my town, Maine. Except private roads. The kids have to walk to the public road. I have see parents waiting with their kid at the bottom of a driveway in their SUV. The driveway was about 20 feet long. (I see that more often with long driveways where you can’t see the house from the road.) We live in a mix of rural and suburban. There could easily be a designated bus stop every half mile or periodic intersections. I do think its nuts that the elementary bus stops at least 10 times on the 3/4 miles of a road I’m on. If we had a close neighbor with kids, I think we’d work out a common spot.

    Thankfully, I also see kids gathered at private roads and waiting by themselves at the ends of driveways. Like my kid will!

    Oh, but how about how the kids get off the bus and cross the road? They have to walk 10 feet in front of the bus, wait to get eye contact with the driver, who will then check for traffic, point at the kid, who will then follow the pointing arm guiding them across the street, and stop when they get even with the edge of the bus. The driver will then check for traffic again, and continue to point across the road. (Yes, the kids are not even taught to check for traffic themselves! We will insist our daughter do it herself.) I’m not quite sure how safe it is for a kid to watch the bus driver instead of the road they are crossing….But no wonder the bus routes take 90 minutes (and we’re really not that large of an area with a LOT of routes)!

    My kid could do her own 5-point carseat by age 3, and she’s not very dextrous.

  186. Megan September 2, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    We live a block from our school so my fourth grader rides her bike to and from school and even has a key to let herself in. She takes our 80+ lb GSD out to potty right away (with a gentle leader he cant get away from her) and then enjoys snacks and netflix till i come home about 5:30. She loves the independence and being trusted to do seemingly small but very ‘adult’ tasks like take the dog out when she gets home. I also feel a little better knowing he’s there when Im not, a sort of added protection and security for us both. We live in a small city, Grand Forks ND, and most kids ride or walk. Only the kids who have to cross major rodes or have special needs get bused. We are able to really enjoy free-ranging in our neighborhood. Example: This last weekend, we had a friend of her’s spend the night and the half of the next day. Another friend of her’s who lives across the street was having a garage sale all day and all 3 girls were going back and forth from my house, across the street, the park and a to a couple of kids houses in the neighborhood. I cleaned all day and saw them a couple times when they needed snacks and just as my neighbor was piling all 3 girls into the car to go to the farmers market as she yelled out the car window if she could go. Of course! I went for a walk with the dog and when I got back they were in my house playing video games while I wasn’t home and the other mom knew this. Not a big deal. An hour later while they were playing in the yard, the mom of the child who spent the night came picked her up from our yard and told my daughter to say hi to me. She didn’t get out or her car or come to my door, just picked her up and left. Then my daugher and the neighbor friend were off to another friends to play till 8:30p. That’s curfew, and she wears a watch. This is a very typical weekend day for us. She’s outta the house after lunch, shows up sometime in the afternoon to grab some food with friends and I don’t see her again till supper. Sometimes I get a call if she wants to eat at a friends and sometimes I am the one feeding the friends. Sometimes I feel like Miss. Hannigan from all the little girls but I know she is building strong ‘character’ and self confidence, and a good set of street smarts. Funny thing tho, I always know were to find her if I should have too. I love my neighborhood. One day there was no one to play with except a girl named Julie who lived on our street somewhere. My daughter didn’t know her phone number so she called her friend, asked her for Julie’s address and went to find her house to see if she could play. 2 hours later she comes home after playing with Julie. I have not met Julie’s parents but I figure if the other girls play over there it can’t be bad. I don’t believe this is neglect at all, she is just growing up how I did. I loved my childhood and I walked to school from when I was in kindergarten.

  187. AnnMarie September 2, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    Oh, but one good thing: As long as we’ve signed a paper saying “just drop off the kid” they’ll let the kid get off the bus without a parent being around. And if you say someone does have to be around, it can be a parent or sibling and simply visible, so you can wave from the front door. We, of course, said just drop her off. (I think my husband is hoping to get in some long afternoon naps now that she’s gone and she’ll be his alarm clock LOL.)

  188. Megan September 2, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    May I also add, when schools out in our neighborhood. Children disperse. That simple. Everybody out!!

  189. Jen Wager September 2, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    Unfortunately, due to the very poor school choices in our area, my kids’ schools are 30 miles away and I have no choice but to drive them, totalling 120 miles each day for me!

    But in my neighborhood, the bus to the public school stops at the end of my block, a block that is a total of 10 houses long, and several parents in our neighborhood walk their children to and from the bus stop, one child I know is in 2nd grade. I find it appalling. Not surprisingly, this child is also not allowed to play further than immediately in front of her house, with an adult supervising.

    We live in a very safe, quiet neighborhood in a small town. There is NO reason for these “precautions”.

  190. jcaritas September 2, 2010 at 5:52 am #

    My daughter isn’t school-aged yet; however, the public school she’ll be going to (Barton Open in Minneapolis) has proclaimed all Fridays “Walk or Bike to School Days,” so we’re not seeing the same issues here that you write about. I’m wondering if the caution is more prevalent in suburbs than cities.

  191. LVS September 2, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    OK, here is what some of my friends think is our crazy get to school system – but it works for us! My daughter’s school is about a mile away, 20min brisk walk.We both like to walk for exercise. She walks home happily by herself, but has asked me to continue to walk with her in the mornings because she enjoys the company and conversations (so do I). I work outside the home, and there would not be time for me to walk with her, walk home and get the car, and get to work on time. But my work is in the same direction as her school (just a lot further – I can’t walk there). SO, I get up early, drive to just past the school, park the car and walk home (20 min exercise for me). When we are all breakfasted and ready for school/work, we walk together, I kiss her goodbye at the school crossing, go on to my car and on to work. Further 20 min exercise for me, 20 min for her, no traffic hassles around the school (i don’t park in the transit zone). Everyone fresh and happy for the day.

    We have done this every day, rain, shine or downpour for the 2 years we have lived here. We have coats, boots, umbrellas, and extra socks when necessary. Mind you, no snow here in Auckland, NZ! My daughter has never had a sick day from school in 5 years of primary.

    Lots of kids walk, bike or scooter to our school, although more than necessary drive (esp on wet days) considering that it has a geographically restricted catchment so everyone by definition lives no more than about 20 min walk away, and most much less. There are 3 walking buses. No school buses. No organised pick-up systems, sign-outs or anything.

  192. Jane September 2, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    Our old school worked on the drive up with a placard system. It was a major metro area with high traffic volume and it was a charter school borrowing a building that didn’t have adequate parking or setting in the neighborhood to handle the additional traffic, just one long drive with a small parking area that the buses and cars had to use for a turn around. And I’m not going to lie, it worked a million times better than the pandemonium free for all my kids’ current schools!

    I know of know oddball stories. Kids here mostly bus, bike, walk or are driven. We have tons of train tracks in our town so those who live across tracks do usually drive or bus (if far enough away). There are usually a few scooters (foot powered) at the elementary school. Crazy thing IMO is no one under 2nd grade can bike, even if accompanied by an adult.

    The district does try to promote walking but we have recently closed 2 schools due to budget shortfalls in the state so attendance boundaries have expanded, meaning more kids further away from school and more dangerous crossings (railroad grades, major traffic ways w/o crossing guards, longer distances). Number of bus routes have doubled since the closures. Sad.

  193. Frau_Mahlzahn September 2, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    @olivia: actually, I think that only those parents appreciated the walking bus, who were interested in letting their kids walk to school anyhow — whether or not there was such a “bus”. I didn’t see any kids join the programm, who ordinarily get a ride from their parents. So I don’t think it did anything to encourage more parents to let their kids walk — just the usual lot, ;-).

    (I would have loved to have my son join the walking bus, and would have cheperoned — however, we are _always_ running late, so we would have missed it anyway, *ggg*).

    So long,

  194. sherri September 2, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    I walk my kids to school. From our house we walk two doors down, cut through a church parking lot, cross the street, and we are in the school yard. One of the teachers at our school lives directly across the street from me, and she drives herself and her son every day. On bicycle safety day when the students are expected to bring their bikes to school, she puts his bike in the back of the SUV and drives them both to school. After school the parents must wait inside the school lobby for the teachers to hand the children off to the parent. Traffic is a nightmare around the school, and there are only crossing guards at one corner, because so few children walk to school.

  195. crystalblue September 2, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    My kids take the bus to school — it stops right outside my home, but I live in a rural area on a windy road where people do not understand what 25 mph means and speed up when they see children walking on the road. We are 1.5 miles from school. My neighbors drive their children to and from school which makes absolutely no sense to me but I guess they’re afraid of the riffraff their kids might encounter on the bus. (Incidentally, I had to smile when my daughter today on her first day of 5th grade strolled confidently all the way to the back of the bus. I guess as one of the older kids on the bus she has now earned the right to sit in the desirable back of the bus.) Other people in town, who live only 1/2 mile from the school with brand new remake-USA sidewalks, have their kids ride the bus or drive their kids to school. Very strange. I think I’ll have my kids bike to school tomorrow!

  196. Jane September 2, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    I failed to note that my child’s former school (a charter borrowing a building in an urban area with limited parking that used the placard method) also was not a neighborhood school in any sense.

    50% of the kids were recent immigrants or refugees from war torn areas and the vast majority lived in a neighboring town due to cheaper housing and a larger public housing market. The other 50% were native English speakers and were required to come from within the county (which covered half the city proper, plus a major portion of the immediate surrounding metro area–can’t really call it a suburb because it was all urban). I believe state charter law at the time was written such that children who actually lived in the city where the school was located were not allowed to attend (I also believe that law has since been changed). Which is to say bus or car was really the only feasible way for any enrolled student to get there.

    Parents are to blame for driving their kids down their driveways (most standard city blocks are 1/8 mile so even a 1/4 mile drive is TWO blocks!) but school administrators and school boards are to blame for building schools in areas that are not walkable or making “no biking” or “no walking” rules. The charter is working diligently to raise funds to build on a site in the immigrant neighborhood that will be more accessible to half the kids. They get it. It’s not rocket science.

  197. Jennifer September 2, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    My oldest son rides the bus, but the bus picks up all the kids at the closest corner. It just so happens we live on the corner so we do not have a far walk.

    Now the car rider line at school is a different story. You would think that you were trying to pick up the president.

  198. Jane September 2, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    JRB wrote : “But I’ve heard that if you need to pick your kid up early from school, you’ve gotta be buzzed in and then wait in line to sign a paper so they know you’re not some pervert. (Ugh.)”

    If it makes you feel better, that is not why they have to sign out. The feds pay you for the number of kids that have their butts in the seat for a full day and even 30 min absent counts as a 1/2 day out of school. They are required to report attendance to feds and the state to get their money and they need every penny. Seriously, I would bet money your school cares less about who is signing the kid out than about how many of the kids are leaving early because of the data reporting laws and finances.

    Our district loses $88/day for every absent kid. If we don’t document every illness or dr. appt. with a note from the physician, it’s counted unexcused and a truant officer is coming to our house after 3 unexcused because our state is over $3million behind in payments to our district and truancy is causing us to hemorrhage even more federal dollars.

  199. Vicki September 2, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    This afternoon I had a meeting with a teacher at my daughter’s school. The meeting ended at dismissal time. I told the teacher that I didn’t think I should have to go get in my car and get in the carpool line to pick up my daughter. She decided that if she accompanied me to to front of the school, then I would be allowed to get my daughter and walk to the parking lot with her.

    The irony is, I’m a school board employee and I was wearing my photo id. I don’t currently work at my daughter’s school, but I am helping them establish a new program. But at dismissal time, I suddenly become a parent and I’m not supposed to be on campus.

    Regarding the car seat that doesn’t get buckled…I agree, I should get out of the car and buckle even if it does hold up the line. But I was very lucky that they allowed my daughter to transfer to that school and the transfer has to be renewed each year. I have to pick my battles carefully so my daughter can stay there.

  200. Susan2 September 2, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    I’m guessing the placard system is in place at schools where there is little parking. My kids have been to a couple of camps where this method is used, and they were in places where parking was $7-$10 just to pull in.

    The thing I don’t understand is who is picking these kids up? Don’t folks have jobs or napping babies at home? I can see some parents with schedules that allow them to pick up kids, but it sounds like most kids are getting picked up.

    Our school doesn’t have a system, but there are a lot of parents who double park in front of the school to pick up their kids, despite the princial telling them that the police periodically ticket. I don’t fault them for picking up since you need to live more than 1.5 miles away to get the bus, and the school starts at Pre-K, but there is plenty of free parking within 3 blocks (no lot). It is very treacherous the way the parents drive and park, which is why I don’t let my kids walk alone until 3rd grade.

    I don’t mind schools being locked and visitors having to sign in. Otherwise, parents might be wandering in and interruping with frequency. I say this because some parents regularly phone and text their kids DURING SCHOOL HOURS. (Yes, phones are supposed to be in lockers, but don’t always make it there.) The locked doors also keep people out who shouldn’t be there, and I’m not just talking about abductors. My daughter’s school had 2 “lock-outs” last year – incidents where the city police told the school not to let anyone in or out of the school because of something happening in the neighborhood. Now that’s scary.

  201. Bob Davis September 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    Time to chime in from my old home town. I was out getting “now” photos of places where the long-gone Pacific Electric Railway ran in Monrovia and Arcadia (east of Pasadena in southern Calif.) and happened by my old neighborhood school. I noticed quite a few children walking home with adults, but some walking unaccompanied. There were very active crossing guards at the nearby intersections. When getting shots of the park that now occupies part of the former railway, I was very careful to avoid aiming the camera at places where children were, something I wouldn’t have worried about years ago. I also noticed that the kids were a lot more ethnically diverse than when I was in school there (that was 60 years ago). One unhappy memory of 6th Grade in 1952 was looking over the playground fence and watching this strange machine yanking the beat-up rails out of the pavement of Olive Ave. In another universe, they would have been replaced with new steel, but in our case buses took over.

  202. Anna September 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    I live in Italy and here if you pick up your child early from school you have to fill out a “permission” slip whereby you indicate the reason your are taking your child out of school early, date, signature must be included.

    For pick-up, the kids are brought out by their teachers all lined up, grade 1 first, then grade 2, etc., and then the child points out their parent/grandparent/babysitter and the teacher lets the child out of the gate.

    Our school is in another town, so we don’t have the right to bus service, so I drive my son to pre-school hour; had I sent him to the elementary school in our town, we could have paid for door-to-school bus service. I wouldn’t let him walk up the hill to school cause he needs to cross a dangerous state road and here in Italy, pedestrian crossings are completely ignored, drivers don’t even slow down, let alone stop.

  203. samantic September 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    I can speak to dysfunction at our school but also to the site plans being proposed in a current district wide masterplan effort. The architects are showing in excrutiating detail right out of the gate how to provide for separate bus and parent pickup and dropiff areas. These are elaborate paeans to cheap fuel and tend to encircle the buildings with asphalt such that bike and ped access is very difficult. “Oh, we can figure that out later. It’s premature to be looking at that.” In other words, it’s intentionally an afterthought.

    I’m all for fairly remote drops that would require everyone not carrying a cello to walk a bit.

    On a national level the Safe Routes to School effort has made selected inroads but mostly where the going is easy.

    Bussing policy itself can be haphazard and illogical.. In our district the d-fact that all schools start and dismiss at the same time in combination with state reimbursement policy requiring a bus to go 40 miles in a day makes for perversely long routes which parents reasonably enough eschew.

    Our k-3 school has a policy of no walking or biking to school even for the few kids who can see the school from their yards. The road has no sidewalks or even shoulders and the speed limit (outside school zone times) is 35 mph, but peaople drive 45 and 50.

    Those riding the bus from town seem to have the idea of walking to the busstop down, but those in the developments do a lot of waiting in their idling cars at both the beginning and the end of the day.

    Ridership is very low outside of town (“I would never let my child ride the bus.”).

    Parent pickup is similar to what Lenore described except the parents park their cars (in the massive elementary school parking lot built for this purpose) and line up to retrieve kids who are inside and waiting to be called. IDs are required unless you’re a regular and the school officials know you.

    Parent dropoff in the morning involves the cars lining up and scooting forward to drop 5 cars at a time before the next batch goes. They changed the policy 2 years ago so that kids could be dropped off 30 minutes early instead of just 15. Before that, the queue of idling cars stretched back along te road for half a mile. They’d start lining up at 8 anyway.

  204. Rachael September 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    The kids in my neighborhood get picked up at their houses. That means there can be a lot of stops on each street! And it always blows my mind when I see a parent waiting outside with their high-school-aged child until the bus comes!! At 14 I walked to my bus stop down the street all by myself while it was still dark and NOTHING BAD EVER HAPPENED!

  205. Rachel Whitten September 2, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    My son’s bus stop is three houses down from his grandparents house, where usually, his high school aged uncles are home by the time he gets there. But no, someone has to be there at his bus stop when he gets off to meet him. He’s not allowed to walk the three houses down because it’s “child abandonment,” even though I as his parent know it is perfectly safe and he is perfectly capable. The first time no one meets him, my husband and I get a written warning. The second time, he gets taken back to the bus barn and they call us from there. The third time THEY CALL THE POLICE.


  206. Juliet September 3, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    We live in a very safe subdivision in a suburb of Southern California. We moved here BECAUSE it is safe. Our house is so close to the elementary school that I can literally see it from my backyard. Even so, I got a lot of flak when I allowed my daughter to start walking to and from school on her own after spring break of her first grade year.

    (Where we live, for kindergarten, every child must be personally signed in and out by a parent inside the classroom so no walking to/from is allowed.)

    For a long time I was known by reputation throughout the community as “that lady who lets her first grader walk alone.”

    It got so bad that I had a few acquaintances who, if they saw her walking, would put her in their car then call me and make me rendezvous to “get her home safely.” Of course my child would probably be likelier to be injured by navigating the long SUV line into and out of the school or through traffic to get into her car than she would be just walking home.

    Now that my daughter is a fourth grader, I am proud to say that many more kids do walk (though still very much in the minority) and I’ve been so very vocal about it, on my blog and in a newspaper article about childhood obesity that both my daughter and I were interviewed for) that I can take at least some of the credit.

    The more kids walk, the safer it becomes. There are fewer cars and more kids out on the street. When my daughter first started walking on her own in 1st grade, she walked with another girl down the block. My ideal would be a large “pack” of kids who walk together, loosely picking up kids as they progress toward the school.

    Traffic is so congested in our area and most people live so close to the school that many parents walk along with their kids. So I guess that’s better than having the kids shuttled back and forth in the Suburban, but I think there is a lot to be said for the independence and fun of walking on your own as a kid. My daughter loves taking control over little things like whether to leave at 8:40 or 8:45. (The only days she’s been tardy are when I’m involved somehow, like if she has a before-school appointment. She’s NEVER been tardy, ever, in 3+ yrs of walking herself.)

  207. jimmy mcdonnell September 3, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    We home school.

  208. Kara September 3, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    The way our school works is a little different than a lot – we have just a county public school, and the area it covers is huge. Very few kids have the ability to walk because of the rural area. I haven’t noticed whether or not they can ride their bikes…
    Anyway, to the point, my kids are 6 and 4 (1st grade and pre-k) and I drop them off at the front door. I pick them up after school, which is a mildly annoying process – I have to walk inside, to the cafeteria, and sign them both out. Then my ID is checked and when my kids’ classes arrive, they can come with me.

  209. alikki September 3, 2010 at 4:56 am #

    Right now we drive our son (10 yo) to school which is 5 miles away on the main street. There are no bike lanes and the there are bike-car accidents about once every few months on the busy route, so we think biking is not a good idea.

    There is no school bus from our town to this private school.

    I don’t see a lot of people in this thread sending their kids on public transport??

    Our plan is that when he starts middle school next year (11 yo), he will take public transportation. The public bus stop from home is about 300 ft away out of sight across a busy but traffic controlled, cross-walked intersection and the stop at school is right in front of the school front lawn. The stop to home is directly across the street from the school in a commercial district of a small town and the public bus stop at home is about 150 ft away from our front door. It’s about a 20 minute trip each way.

    He would be the only kid taking this bus and would be alone at the stop. However, I go to work in the other direction also by public bus and I would be diagonally across the street from him in the mornings.

    We learned just recently that the middle school won’t release a kid except to a parent in the afternoon (they can’t even walk home without a parent!) so he may be taking the public bus to school, but we would still have to pick him up after school. (They have that “bring the kids out one at a time” system so they would know if he left on his own.)

    As an aside, I see a 12 (poss 13) yo girl walking every morning alone several blocks to a neighbors house for a ride to school. I am sorry to say that the first time I saw her, I thought her parents were irresponsible. I had completely forgotten that at 8 yo (1969) I walked a mile to school and back by myself every day, often taking the short cut “through the woods.”

    I discussed this plan with two other parents and they told me they would never ever let their kids take public transport because “you never know who is on the bus.” After that , I kept my mouth shut!

  210. Juliet September 3, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    JRB wrote : “But I’ve heard that if you need to pick your kid up early from school, you’ve gotta be buzzed in and then wait in line to sign a paper so they know you’re not some pervert. (Ugh.)”

    If it makes you feel better, that is not why they have to sign out. The feds pay you for the number of kids that have their butts in the seat for a full day and even 30 min absent counts as a 1/2 day out of school. They are required to report attendance to feds and the state to get their money and they need every penny. Seriously, I would bet money your school cares less about who is signing the kid out than about how many of the kids are leaving early because of the data reporting laws and finances.

    Our district loses $88/day for every absent kid. If we don’t document every illness or dr. appt. with a note from the physician, it’s counted unexcused and a truant officer is coming to our house after 3 unexcused because our state is over $3million behind in payments to our district and truancy is causing us to hemorrhage even more federal dollars.

    I’m not sure if my district does it “wrong” but I was told by the principal that they get paid per student only based on who is signed in as present. Leaving early does NOT count as an absence (or portion of day absence.) The discussion came up re: timing doctor/dentist appts. The administration tells parents to make them at the end of the day rather than the beginning so kids can be marked as present when roll is taken.

  211. Rebecca O September 3, 2010 at 6:48 am #

    We are a long way of from Middle school but there is a possibility that will be the best way to get my kids to school and we won’t hesitate to use it. Right now we use the same bus to go to our swim lessons and the whole ride takes 10 minutes.

  212. Sara Savel September 3, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    A few years ago in my community a local school decided to try encouraging kids to walk to school. Parents freaked out en masse. It was quite hysterical and sad all at the same time.

    That said–in my neighborhood all the school age children play outside and ride bikes, so when school starts I think they will probably be trusted to walk to their bus stop.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that the higher the income bracket, the more over protective the parents. You rarely see kids running around outside in affluent areas, but in lower middle class neighborhoods like ours, they are always out and about on nice days.

  213. Susan2 September 3, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    @alikki – Where do you live? I’ve never heard of a school that requires middle schoolers to be signed out by a parent. In my city middle school starts at age 11 or 12, but I know in some places it starts younger. Still seems completely ridiculous, though.

    My daughter takes the public bus to middle school, but it is a very different situation than yours because many kids do. There are very few school buses. Because of this, we sometimes here the opposite reaction of the “you never know who is on the bus.’ Many working folks will avoid the buses that go by the school because “who knows what might happen on that bus!”

    The only thing I would possibly be nervous about is his waiting for the bus if it is a little used stop and buses come infrequently. Once he is on the bus, there is little to worry about unless you are in a really, really high crime area. Tell him to sit near the driver. We had a family friend who drove a city bus in Pittsburgh for years. The drivers are often monitored, go through drug tests, have continuing ed, etc., and the buses are checked often for mechanical problems. In fact, city bus drivers are probably much safer than school bus drivers. Because city driver jobs are better paid, with decent benefits, drivers tend to stay on the job longer and be more qualified. And they are probably better drivers, or at least updated on driving skills (and how to deal with things like altercations) than most parents.

  214. Raymond September 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    I have to confess I walk my children to school. 12, 11, 6 years old, and it is two miles.

    Truthfully two miles is the distance to my shop and Momma and I both walk there quite a bit. Yes we are homeschoolers. Now I took my children out of school because my son who is twelve spent more time in the principals office than he did in class, as a kindergärtner.

    After reading horror story after horror story on busing, parents driving, etc, I am so grateful for growing up where sometimes I walked or bicycled to school back in the sixties and early seventies.

  215. Dave September 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    We live in Brooklyn and biking in our neighborhood is a way of life. My 6 year old bikes to school but becaus he is six someone in the house either rides with him or walks behind him. He has to wait at the corners to cross but otherwise he rides a head on his own. In the Summer we ride to down town Brooklyn and to Prospect Park with him. He is used to navigating sidwalk traffic and is looking forward to when he is 10 so he can ride in the bike lanes with the older kids.

  216. Isaac Whiting September 4, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    At our son’s elementary school kids are not allowed to leave without parent before grade 4. I suppose they could walk to get there, but it would result in lots of pressure from teachers and other parents to desist. Discussions about it among parents seem pretty paranoid. We live in a major city and everyone in the school lives within 10 blocks. Most are driven or walked by their parents/caregivers. They are allowed to walk at grade 4, but there is still pressure against it from the parents. One family let their grade 4 walk last year. They pretty much became known as the irresponsible parents. No clipboards and walkie-talkies though.

  217. Esther September 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I live in Canberra in Australia. I can see my son’s school from our back window, he is 7 and walks to school every day, on the days when I don’t work I go and walk him home. (he goes to an after school program the other days and they pick him up by bus outside the school – which it is his responsibility to get to on time!) I would say 80-90% of the kids in his class walk or ride bikes.

    That being said our area is well equiped with foot paths, walking underpasses under all the major roads and the speed limit around schools is 40km/h (about 25 miles/h give or take…) and the police are monitoring speeds at least once a month (there are 5 schools in the area so they just randomly show up). My son doesn’t have to cross a single road to get to school.

    Most of the parents use the time waiting for the kids to come out to sit and chat about the day etc, it creates a real sense of community. Canberra is in the mountains and tends to have very varied temperatures. It is routinely below 0 (32 f) when my son goes to school in winter and there are days in summer when it is over 35 when he is walking home (95 f) and the number of children walking rarely changes – except on the really odd days when it snows (maybe 1-2 times a year – if we are lucky)

  218. Beth September 5, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    My child attends a charter school in Raleigh NC. There are no buses that service the school at all. We do the “line up with the placard” routine. You cannot pick up your child if you do not have the official placard. Parents volunteer to call in the names to line up the kids. There are safety patrol children who open and close the doors of the minivans for the kids to get in and out. In the morning, you don’t need a placard, but we still line up and the kids are escorted out of the cars by the safety patrol. There is no accommodation for walkers. There are no children that live within waking distance of the school. We are in a temporary building which is a suite of converted offices in a large shopping center, so it is not very walkable at all. They will not let any child leave unless they are signed out by a pre-approved adult. We must have background checks to take kids off campus but not to volunteer in the school. There is a public bus stop right by the school, but I called the Raleigh transit office to ask about children riding the bus and I was told that children under the age of 13 cannot ride a city bus alone.

  219. kherbert September 5, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    ADA (Average Daily Attendance) money
    In Texas. It is if the kids are there at X time. For my school it is 9:30 (It has to do with start and stop times so differs in different school districts).

    If I remember correctly if a student comes in after 9:30 but with a medical excuse s/he is counted.

    We have an “air lock” that forces people coming in after 7:45 through the office. We aren’t worried about random strangers.

    1) We have several foster homes that feed into our school. It is a small enough town that parents might know this.

    2) We have some problem parents who disrupt classes. Some are just jerks. Several have histories of threats/intimidation and teachers refuse to meet with them unless an administrator is present.

    The air lock slows them down and allows staff to react. Parents and community volunteers that are regular swing through but can check themselves in and go about their business.

  220. Babs September 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    @Sara: One thing I’ve noticed is that the higher the income bracket, the more over protective the parents

    Very true, this. Because most of these folks don’t have to worry about most ‘day to day’ worries that plague those of lesser means, it’s much easier to dwell on bogus boogeymen/infectious plagues/whatever hype the affluent tend to cave into readily. Even the most educated, cynical types become nervous Nellies once they start having kids, with a few exceptions (I have my worries, but not of the same kind/extent that other mothers seem to have…probably a plus of being an older mom and having been around other people’s kids beforehand!)

  221. Deanna K September 6, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    I’ve been meaning to send you a note for the last 2 weeks about our carpool. My son started kindergarten and the dismissal procedure is for the teacher to open her classroom door to the outside and let the kids out if she sees a parent or person assigned to pick up the child. When I asked another parent about letting the kids walk home – they laughed and said the kids can’t walk home until 2nd or 3rd grade. WHAT???? I live exactly 1 mile from the school. My son would have to walk down a residential street, cross a busy street – with a crossing guard – and then walk in another residential area to get home. I would have no problem with him walking home. He might take a while because he wants to look at the birds or a stick on the ground, but hey, he is almost 6 and that is to be expected.

    It takes me at least 20 minutes to pick up each day – I have to drive to the school, trying to maneuver around the other parents trying to get a parking spot, park my car across the street in the junior high parking lot, load a sleeping toddler (who I just plucked from a nap) into a stroller, try and cross the street that the other parents are trying to maneuver to decide where to park, and wait for my child to be released. To me it is a nightmare!

  222. Phine September 6, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    A friend of mine who lives in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney lets his son take the bus and sometimes his son would just walk from home to his school. The bus stop isn’t far from their house but the kid would walk if the weather is fine. It would just take 15 minutes for him to reach school.

  223. Heather September 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    My teen daughter takes public transit. No school buses past 5th grade here. My 6yr old son walks with Grandpa and me after school. He plays for about an hour after school. I am hoping by the end of grade 3 he will be walking with friends.

  224. chefchick September 7, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    My daughter is still an infant, but if we decide to do preschool in a couple of years then the one down the street that we can walk to together will be the one she goes to! I’m sure the “curriculum” for 2.5 year olds will be just fine :) She’ll take the bus when school time comes, it’s a few miles away.

    I have a friend who walked with her daughter to the end of their driveway to wait for the bus for the first few days of school (kindergarten), and walked down to wait for her to get off the bus after school. But after a few days, she decided she felt “creeped out” at being all alone at the end of her driveway where “anyone could just snatch her.” The MOM, not the kid!! So now, yep,she drives to the bottom of the driveway and sits in the car to wait for her kid, then puts it in reverse and backs up to the garage to carry her home. I recently learned that the 6 year old also NEVER goes outside into the yard without one of her parents. Shocking.

  225. riverdaughter September 7, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    Last year, my daughter was in middle school and was a walker.
    This year, she’s in high school and takes a bus. The distance is roughly the same. There are sidewalks and only one significant intersection where the school is located and where there is a light and crossguards. We considered letting her bike to school but then the bus pass arrived in the mail. She says she may walk home occasionally anyway.
    By the way, we laid off 80 teachers in this district but not one bus was sacrificed.
    Hillsborough, NJ

  226. samantha puckett September 8, 2010 at 1:15 am #

    My daughter is in first grade. We live two blocks from her school. This morning I was encouraged to see two boys in her class riding their bicycles to school (they are next-door neighbors who live a bit farther from the school than we do — maybe six blocks away, but still in the same neighborhood, with NO busy streets). But then I noticed that the mother of one of the boys was driving right behind them all the way.

  227. Julie Wills September 8, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    Kids here walk and bike *GASP* OMG the apocalypse must be coming, right? Not only are they allowed to do so, but it’s a pretty regular thing. Hooray for living in a non-paranoid district! Kids actually play outside on the streets and go to the park and everything. It’s such a nice change of pace from other places I’ve lived, where were like the only people doing it and everyone thought were child abusers, neglectful and/or stupid.

  228. Tony Halsell September 8, 2010 at 7:17 am #

    When the school district announced after last year that students who lived in the two subdivisions nearest the two elementary schools would no longer have access to bus service, I was vocally opposed – not because I’m afraid that harm would befall my kids, but because I find it fiscally inappropriate that the two neighborhoods representing the largest percentage of the tax paying population would continue to pay for this service and not have access to it.

    Anyway, my 8 year old (7 when he started) has been happily walking or biking the half-mile to school and he seems to enjoy it.

    My wife and I have discussed how we’ll handle this when my daughter, now aged 3, starts school. Since our son will be in his final year at the same school when she starts Kinder, we’ll have them walk or bike together.

    After a year of that, we’re confident that there’ll be no problems with her taking herself too and from school in the following years after her big brother moves on to middle school.

  229. s0nicfreak September 9, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    I homeschool my own kids, but the neighbor kids are picked up at their door. The school HALF A BLOCK down the street. They don’t wait outside alone either; the school bus pulls up in front of their house, honks, and they come out… and when they are dropped off at the end of the day, the bus again honks and a parent must come out and retrieve them.

  230. Jenny Armitage September 10, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    At our local elementary schools in Salem, Oregon, only authorized persons are allowed to pick children up though children in second grade and older may walk home.

    A girl-friend and I have regularly picked each others children up when one of us needs to babysit for the other. Two years ago this was complicated by a new rule requiring that we have a new permission slip on file every time we pick up our friend’s child rather than just the blanket permission given when we registered the kids for school.

    Oddly, we are still each others emergency contact and can authorize medical treatment in each others absence.

  231. Taylor September 13, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    I am 16, and have pretty much had a free-ranged, homeschooled childhood. I’ve been homeschooled/unschooled all along. I am now taking college classes at a state university, taking the bus to and from, and having to walk about 2-4 blocks before and after I get on the bus. I also bike when the weather is nice. Yes, I’m only 16, yes, yes, I’m at a university that’s the second largest in my state, yes, I take public transportation and am able to get around just fine on my bike, and yes, I’m absolutely comfortable, and love it. GO FREE RANGE!!!

  232. Katarina Navane September 18, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    I’m in college now but when I was in HS a few years ago the bus came to our house instead of to a bus stop, but we live out in the country so if it stopped any less frequently we would have to walk several miles on an inhospitable and dangerous (actually dangerous, frequent car wrecks) country road without sidewalks to get to the nearest stop. Even so stops were fairly far apart some of the way.

    Sometimes (very rarely) Mom would drive us to the stop even though it was just the end of the driveway, but that was usually on days where it was both cold and raining and because I would ask for it (terrible circulation, I’m cold when other people are sweating) not for any sort of “safety” reason. And was always Very aware that this was a luxury.

  233. PolishMom24 September 29, 2010 at 4:25 am #

    I’m coming very late to this discussion because I have just found your website.
    I must be very blessed where I live. Many of our students are bused because we live in a rural area with a couple of towns in our school district. To live 6+ miles from one’s school is not unheard of.
    However, those kids that do live in town (pop. about 4,000) walk and bike. Crossing guards are stationed at the two stoplights in town :-) In the winter, kids from all over the district snowmobile into school, mostly high schoolers. There has even been an occasion or two when the farm kids will drive in with their tractors :-)

  234. bellydancerakn October 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    We mostly have a combo of the 2, mostly dropping off each kid in fornt of their house. BUT we live in a rural community where bus stops (like what your talking about) would mean a lot of kid would walk 5 miles to get to the bus stop. Have you ever walked 5 miles carrying 50lbs on your back? It’s not a fun experiance (I missed the school bus and had to walk the 3 miles to get to the city bus and then the 2 miles to get to the school). I myself had to walk a half mile to get to the bus stop everyday, but that was pretty much the max.
    But I’ve seen lots of kids walk to school or bike. I simply lived too far away to do either.
    Now though, I hear with the elementary age kids the parents have to be waiting when the bus drops the kids off. Now I understand this for a kindergartener (perhaps). But a 11 yr old can lock and unlock a door himself.

  235. Timothy Cooke August 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    They walk. I have two kids, a 6 year old girl and a 9 year old boy. Their elementary school is one mile away, and the route doesn’t make them cross any roads until they’re across the street from the school. So, after I taught them about “stranger danger” and how to cross roads safely, they began walking 20 minutes to and from school. Nothing bad has happened, and no one has made a fuss over me allowing my children some independence. Whew.
    On another note, thank you for this blog and what it promotes! Helicopter parenting is one of my pet peeves, and I laugh at parents who call it “responsible parenting”. Oh yes, they’re responsible…for raising children that have never been away from their parents outside, and that would probably freeze in terror if their parents were out of sight. Ugh.


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