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Why Do We Leave Our Kids Alone In The Dark?
11/6/2013 12:35:16 PM

By Barney Blakeney

On my way to work the other morning I was taken aback by the thought of a kid I saw waiting for a school bus. He is among several who wait each morning for a school bus to transport them to schools outside the peninsula. This one kid gets to the corner near my house early, about 6 a.m. Several other younger kids catch another bus at that same corner taking them to some other school. I didn’t give it much thought until the other day.

It was production day at the paper. I’ve got an early deadline so I go in early on production day. I see the kids all the time, but I never give it much thought. That day it was pitch black dark at 6 a.m. Someone dropped the kid off and he stood there alone in the dark fidgeting with his cellphone.

I thought to myself ‘Why is this kid out here?’ My cousins in Kingstree got up that early before school, but they had to milk cows. A couple of them drove school buses.

But here was this kid standing there in the dark with his hoodie pulled over his head. I wondered if he’d be there in the dead of winter standing in the cold and rain.

He’d gotten out of a late model car. Apparently his people were somewhat prosperous. And I figured he lived nearby. Most folks in my neighborhood are financially solvent so why was this kid there?

I asked him where he went to school. He attends a school in West Ashley. With all the problems at Burke High, I figured the kid’s parents want to send him anywhere but Burke. Still, I don’t know if I’d want my kid standing on a corner at 6 a.m. just to go to a better school.

As a little kid during the 1960s, my family moved to a couple of different communities. Each time we moved my sisters and I were within walking distance of the school we attended. I’m sure that was planned.

Many nights I sat by the fireside listening to my parents talk about how far they walked to school when they were kids - 45 miles through the snow carrying a lunch pale that contained a made-from-scratch biscuit soaked in fatback grease, a slice of bacon and some kind of fruit.

They wanted better for us. So our schools were close to home. So close my teachers could walk me home when I misbehaved.

I’ll never forget the day Miss Garrett walked me home from Columbus Street Elementary School and had that talk with my dad while he sat in front of the gas stove with the oven door open to heat up the kitchen. I don’t recall doing anything particularly bad that day. I guess she just wanted to let him know I still was acting crazy and she was frustrated.

My dad never went to the school. I can remember only a few times he’d go to a PTA meeting. My mom worked nights.

Throughout school my teachers knew my parents. Neither of them went to the school that much. They both worked. But our teachers knew them and they knew our teachers. Some of my educators continued to ask about my parents even their deaths.

When I think about that kid on my corner, I wonder how many of his teachers have that kind of relationship with his parents. I think his parents probably are hard working people who care deeply about their son and want the best possible education they can get for him.

But I wonder why they leave him on a corner in the cold and dark rather than fight as hard as they know how to insure that he is able to get a quality education at the schools right in his neighborhood.

I figure that kid’s parents, like thousands of others on the peninsula, fail to realize that one of the best things they can do for their kids is to make neighborhood schools the best they can be.

According to Charleston County School District, scores of kids are transferred out of their constituent districts to attend better performing schools in other constituent districts through the No Child Left Behind act. Surprisingly no kids this year are bused out of Burke High, a chronically failing school, to other district schools. That’s got to be crazy when Burke is designed to hold some 1,100 students and currently enrolls fewer than 500. What’s that kid doing on my corner if no kids are transferring out?

I can understand why many parents are confused. The information that is made available is reported in such confusing ways it’s hard for most folks to keep up. But that doesn’t excuse parents from staying on top of the issues that affect the schools their children attend.

I’m a basic kind of guy. I’m not going through the trouble of complicated details that people use to explain stuff that doesn’t make sense anyway. But I know that I wouldn’t leave my kid on a corner at 6 a.m. to catch a bus to a school miles away when all I have to do is invest a little time and effort to make the school in my neighborhood do what I pay them to.

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