Editorial: Working together
Last week, several parents spoke out at a Darien Board of Education meeting regarding the school district’s transportation policy.
If you don’t live within the two-mile radius of Darien High School, you might not even know the policy exists. But currently, if you are within that radius, your child is not eligible for school bus transportation. This means the student and his or her family are responsible for getting their child to school.
For reference purposes, Holmes School, located on Route 106, almost to the Stamford border, is located 1.7 miles away from Darien High School. According to Google maps, to walk from the high school to Post 53 headquarters is 1.7 miles and would take 36 minutes.
This is likely not a problem if the home is a dual parent one and at least one parent is not working or working a flexible schedule. However, if both parents have full-time jobs or it is a single parent home, this is much more of a challenge. Getting to work on time, especially if the full-time job isn’t local, is going to be hard. Even worse than getting there in the morning is the pickup in the afternoon. How many full-time jobs allow for parents to leave to be able to pick up their child at 2:30 p.m.? One parent in this situation is Ali Ramsteck, the head of Darien’s Department of Human Services. Ramsteck spoke at the meeting last week — saying that because of the bus policy, she now has to leave her job mid-afternoon every day to be able to get her child home safely.
Some argue that children can walk home, like many of us did “back in the day.” However, as many parents pointed out, the two-mile radius includes Noroton Avenue — a long and busy street that goes over the highway. The area is frequently populated with heavy traffic. But safety aside, many working parents feel the policy does not take their challenges into consideration — a complaint that many raise in this town and others when it comes to some school policies.
Darien and its surrounding neighbors’ households are fortunate in that many are able to have at least one parent — often the mom, but also the dad — able to be a stay-at-home one. That means that school events, class parties, conferences, parent council meetings, etc. are sometimes out of reach or a struggle for working parents who do not have the flexibility of a stay-at-home parent. This struggle becomes compounded when the household is a single working parent.
This is not to say a stay-at-home parent doesn’t come with its own pressures, workload, and stress of juggling one or more children’s schedules along with the tremendous amount of volunteer and charity work many in town admirably put in. It simply means such parents may have to be somewhere outside the home or at a desk for a certian amount of hours each day or face losing their livelihood and possibly health insurance.
This particular transportation policy was clearly put into place as a cost savings measure, and that effort is to be applauded.
But it is just as important to take other concerns into consideration and a reminder that the working parent does not have the same time and flexibility as others.
Addressing the concerns with this bus policy, as the Board of Ed has made clear it intends to do, is a good step toward working together and showing inclusivity to all families, however they are structured and whatever their time constraints and challenges may be.