The irritation about the safety of children who are newly expected to walk to Emmorton Elementary School expressed recently by parents is well-founded for at least two reasons.
Firstly, the leadership of Harford County Public Schools cut bus routes ostensibly in an effort to make up a $20 million-plus difference between what they sought for the current year's budget and what they actually got. Cutting bus routes and the other high profile measure taken – levying of fees to participate in extracurricular activities and athletics - recouped but a fraction of the total. Meanwhile it's worth noting that the county school system's budget, year over year, saw a slight increase in spending.
The school system's decision to cut bus routes has the aroma of a calculated move to create a public outcry for substantially increasing school system funding, even as enrollment has been declining and administrative positions have been increasing.
There's a second and more disturbing reason parents should have concerns about the safety of children walking to school:
Annette Hansen, a parent of an Emmorton Elementary student and member of the school's PTA, was quoted by an Aegis reporter saying she has seen drivers making U-turns on Tollgate Road near the school and worse. "I watch it nearly every day, children jumping back from the curb because cars are on their way to work or in a rush to get their children to school and then get to work themselves."
As a matter of course, there's no excuse for the kind of behavior that can be witnessed on roadways in Harford County at just about any time of day, on just about any thoroughfare. Speeding is regarded as something of a birthright; tailgating, passing on two-lane roadways, running red lights and even passing school buses stopped to pick up students are just too common.
Yeah, a lot of us commute, and the temptation to drive fast when it's possible to shave a few minutes off the commute is strong, but should be resisted.
Unsafe driving on roads where children are walking to school is right up there with firing a gun into the air in a crowded community or poisoning a salad bar in terms of being socially repellent.
Parents absolutely have a point that if their kids were picked up at bus stops last year, they probably should be picked up by buses this year, too. But there are kids who walk to school every year, and the problem of unsafe driving around schools – and everywhere else – really is shameful.
It remains to be seen how school system budget considerations will play out in the months ahead, but it is an absolute certainty that safer driving around schools, and everywhere else, is something that is sorely needed in Harford County.