On Thursday, August 6 Oakdale Joint Unified Schools will once again be in session. For a handful of our readers that means nothing. Total enrollment for OJUSD is just shy of 5,300 students. So when I say a ‘handful’ I mean that quite literally.
True, more than a handful may not have children currently enrolled in one of the varying campuses, however for anyone who drives in the city limits this does affect you. Most especially between the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. or 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Foot traffic around town and across F Street becomes abundant during these times.
I’m trying something new this school year and penning this piece prior to the start of school. Without fail, I know on or around Monday, August 10 my blood pressure will be boiling and my voice will be strongly heard around our office. This is normally the amount of time it takes before I ‘break’ over the carelessness and selfish way in which people navigate as they try and get their students to school.
Please reread the previous sentence. My frustration does not come at the hands of young drivers and I do realize the high school traffic is its own beast. My frustration tends to come at the manner, the lack of awareness so many seem to ride around town with.
Automobiles are one of the most lethal, legal weapons being operated daily by individuals preoccupied and unaware as they drive through busy small town streets.
My mom lost her youngest brother to one such person when she was 8. My uncle was 7 and was innocently riding his bike on a country road where he should have been spotted. No one should have to bury a 7-year-old child.
She recently shared with me that every memory before that day, she no longer has.
“Amazing what the mind does,” she said.
Obviously, I never met my uncle, but his death was a reality which forever affected our family. My mom watched as her brother was struck. She never rode a bike again, after that day. For the next generation, we could never be too safe when out riding. One should never assume.
As much as I would love to lead a one woman crusade against the masses of selfish drivers who will get behind the wheel to drive their very important student to school, experience has taught me better.
No. The yellow zone is not painted especially for the person who wants to walk their child in to school. This is actually called a Drop Off Zone. That’s what you are to do. No big words there, pretty straight to the point. One’s key should actually not leave the ignition when you are in this zone.
When dropping off or picking up a child at one of the campuses which hold these 5300 unique souls, there is no such thing as ‘a quick second.’ Please read that again also. It can go faster, but that would require all of us adhering to the guidelines and working together. Not sure we’re there yet.
Pedestrians have the right of way. Those are people … pedestrians … and they come in all heights, shapes, sizes and speeds. Please defer to the pedestrian, because as the person in the driver seat of the vehicle ... you are bigger than them.
Every year, I insist on walking my children in for the first week or so. In doing so, we always seem to revisit the same conversation. They question the irrational behavior being made by the ‘grown-ups’ as they watch walking onto their campus.
My response never varies. They are the same words my mom used to offer me on so many occasions; we can’t be accountable for another’s actions. It’s not always going to make sense. Rather than focus on what they are doing wrong, use it as a lesson and go from there.
So we discuss preventive measures, being smart about crossing and never assuming they are seen.
A good lesson came a few years back, during this exact same week. I was crossing them to school, in a crosswalk, in bright pink running shorts. Fortunately both children were to the left of me, as I greeted the hood of a car with my right hand and their bumper just shy of my right leg. The look in the driver’s eyes was enough for both of us to know, that was just too close.
Now, with all that said, here’s my annual plea: Please be safe out there. Please remember we all love our children just as much as you love the ones you are carting from one end of town to the other. Please don’t be the reason for the sirens to sound and our police scanner to catch all of our attention. Take the extra three minutes to do the right thing and then hug and kiss those children at the end of each day. Why? Simple … because you can.
God Bless and be safe.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.