Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Homeward Bound
Jennifer Flaten

Morning dawns; thick, heavy snow blankets our yard. Every TV station blares out winter storm warnings and reports of treacherous road conditions flash continuously on screen.

I repeatedly check the school closing list, unable to believe that the kid's school is open.

No matter how many times I refresh the page the school remains stubbornly open.

With resignation, I bundle up the kids and ferry them to school. Our normal five-minute drive ends up being fifteen nail biting minutes.

Although I would love nothing more then to go home and have a nice hot toddy, I have to head to work. Since, the schools are open I have no valid excuse to miss work.

I proceeded to work, cursing the school district the entire way.

No sooner have I safely arrived, when my desk phone rings. As I pick up, I hear a disembodied voice drone, "Due to weather conditions we have decided to close schools early".

Minutes after hanging up my desk phone, my cell phone rings with the same-recorded message, followed shortly by a text message containing the closing notification.

I inform my employer of my imminent departure and suit up to venture back into the winter wonderland to retrieve my children.

Unbelievably, I arrive safe, sound, and on time at the kids school. I join the pick up queue.

Shortly my children hop into the car. After exchanging greetings, they all express their relief that I made the pick them up.

I am perplexed and ask why they would ever doubt that I would pick them up.

According to the kids, the school staff made a huge deal out of whether the parents would make it to pick up or not. Especially, those who did not have an emergency closure plan on file.

This form details what your child will do when sent home due to a school closing.

My answer is simple, in case of emergency closure; I would be there to pick them up without fail, or barring my inability to pick them up, someone else from the family.

Apparently, this answer was not good enough for the school.

The nasty gram received home with the children the next day hammers this home.

Per the school, they state that when the school closes early, they cannot (cannot) guarantee that they will reach the parents to let them know of the closing.

If they cannot reach the parents then the school will place your child on a bus and send them home.

That's right they will place your little ones, some only five years old, on a bus and send them home alone. Little kids, who can't even follow instructions to put their shoes on, get sent out into the world to follow the emergency plan that you set up in September and most likely never discussed again.

I am having a hard time with this, a real hard time.

First of all, with all the technology now available to everyone, cell phones, email, internet, and TV, how can you not get the word to parents that the school is closing?

Second, the letter had a faintly judgmental tone. It implied that you should have a warm and cuddly neighbor for your kids to hole up with, certainly not let them be alone until you do get home.

Well, gee, not everyone is comfortable imposing on a neighbor.

Plus, let's face it, if you live a neighborhood where the overall demographic reflects your own demographic, say young, working family then who the heck would be home during the day?

If you do live in a neighborhood with some people that stay home or work at home, this doesn't instantly mean you are friendly enough with them to have your kids stay over there.

Believe it or not, some people don't make instant lifelong friends with their neighbors. Of course, according to the school you should.

I can see it now, cultivating your neighbors simply because they may offer child-watching services in an emergency.

It is simply mind boggling to me, that a society that feels it necessary to call the police if a child remains in the car unattended while the parent goes into the gas station to pay for the gas, would allow find it acceptable for the school district to send kids out into the world without supervision.

I am pretty sure a licensed daycare provider would be in a boatload of trouble if they sent their charges home alone to await the parents return from work. Can you say lawsuit? Yet, the school district does this and no one bats and eye!

There is simply no reason that parents cannot be informed and be there when their children are homeward bound.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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