At their best, school drop-off and pick-up times are an exercise in patience for parents.
At their worst, they are traffic jams full of children dashing behind, between and in front of cars.
Some acknowledge that such morning and afternoon exchanges are messy and potentially dangerous. But Janesville School District officials said barring expensive improvements or a complete change in culture, school drop-off and pick-up experiences are unlikely to change.
“Hands down, it’s a huge issue districtwide,” said Brian Donohoue, a former Janesville police official who now is a security consultant.
School officials also said—tactfully—that if parents followed the rules, kids would be safer and the experience would be better for everyone.
The problemJanesville has 12 elementary schools, 11 of which were built 50 or more years ago.
Think about what the culture was like back then. Most middle-class families owned one car. Moms often worked from home, and almost all children biked, walked or took the bus to school.
Older schools were built as “neighborhood schools,” and it never occurred to district officials that many parents eventually would drive their children to school.
The challenges are different at each school.
Van Buren Elementary, 1515 Lapham St., was built close to the street on a T-intersection. One arm of the T is a dead end. There is no through street.
Madison Elementary, 331 N. Grant Ave., is not really on Grant Avenue at all, but rather at the dead end of Ravine Street.
Roosevelt Elementary, 316 S. Ringold St., neighbors St. Paul’s Lutheran School. Roosevelt is also about two blocks from Craig High School and near busy Racine Street and St. John Vianney Catholic School.
Janesville police Sgt. Aaron Ellis, who oversees the school crossing guards and the school liaison officers, worries about the amount and type of traffic in that area. Craig High School is home to hundreds of new drivers.
ChallengesVan Buren, like many other elementary schools, has a “stop, drop and go” area marked by a bright yellow curb.
The idea is that parents pull up to the curb, drop off their children and leave.
In the afternoon, students can get into their parents’ cars if the vehicles are parked next to the yellow curb. From there, parents can merge into traffic if it’s safe or wait until they reach the head of the line to leave.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way, said Van Buren Principal Stephanie Pajerski.
Most of the rule violations occur at dismissal time, when everyone arrives simultaneously to pick up their children.
Common violations include:
“The biggest challenge is to keep people moving forward,” Pajerski said.
Pajerski said that not only blocks the street, but it’s also unsafe for kids to dash between cars and into traffic.
She worries an ambulance or other emergency vehicle would have trouble weaving through the traffic.
Van Buren has invested in extra signs and continues to remind parents of the rules through take-home fliers.
During summer school, Pajerski asked students to make a safety video for parents. She hopes to get more engagement with the video than she has seen with the fliers.
Before he became a safety consultant for the school district, Donohoue worked for the Janesville Police Department for 33 years. One of his jobs was working with schools.
“It’s the parents,” Donohoue said when asked about the traffic congestion. “They ignore the signage. And there’s plenty of signage.”
Other solutions have been considered, he said.
Harrison Elementary looked into dedicating more property for student drop-offs and pick-ups, but changing the current configuration was too expensive.
At Madison, adding an entrance from Bond Place or Crosby Avenue was considered, but the expense was a drawback.
“The sad thing about it—and I used to say this when I worked at the police department—is that it’s not some Joe Shmoe doing this; it’s the parents,” Donohoue said. “They’re double parking, blocking the bus area, leaving their vehicle (to take kids into school) in the stop, drop and go area.”
He understands that parents are busy people, but he pleads with them to take their time at school.
“Just 10 more minutes,” he said. “Just 10 more. It’s all about the children’s safety.”
David Boyd was happy with his life as a swimming coach when he went on a religious retreat many years ago with his father and other men from Janesville’s Trinity Episcopal Church.
The gathering proved to be pivotal.
“On the weekend, I discovered that Jesus Christ is real,” David said. “I felt called to go to seminary and to be a priest.”
The sharp turn in his life happened more than 40 years ago, but David still remembers every detail of it.
“It is still remarkable to me,” he said.
Trinity’s congregation sponsored David at seminary and has stayed in touch with him over the last 35 years since he was ordained.
“I’m proud to be a boy from Janesville and a boy from Trinity church,” David said.
The Williamsburg, Virginia, resident will return to his hometown and a church dear to his heart for Trinity’s 175th anniversary celebration the weekend of Sept. 21-22.
Many remember David as a strong swimmer from Craig High School.
Many also knew his father, Don, who was their hometown sportscaster for 34 years at Janesville’s WCLO radio, where he worked from 1946 to 1980.
Both were inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame.
But it was David’s sister, Pam, who started the family’s nearly 50-year connection with Trinity church.
In the 1970s, Pam was in a civic production with people from the church, and they invited her to sing in the church choir.
“My parents followed her into the church because it was so welcoming,” David recalled. “They attended and embraced the Episcopal way of thinking.”
The Rev. Wayne Smith, who was rector at the time, visited Don Boyd in the hospital before he even attended the church.
Both Don and his wife, Sidney, are interred in Trinity’s columbarium.
Their son David is not the only priest to be raised up by Trinity.
“The church has sent multiple priests to be ordained, and they have served the church far beyond Janesville,” David said. “I am not unique by any means.”
But he is deeply grateful to the people of Trinity who were instrumental in helping him discern his calling.
In the setting of a religious retreat, “I finally was able to hear what God had been trying to tell me all along … that I was deeply loved,” David said.
Smith advised David to wait a couple of years to make sure of his feelings before entering seminary.
During that time, David moved back to Janesville and became the sexton at the church.
“It may have been the best training for the priesthood,” he said. “The theological education is important. But being intimately involved with the people of God is vital to being a pastor.”
When David married his wife, Cathy, several people from Trinity came to Missouri, where he was living.
“They have supported us, including my wife’s call to ordination as a priest,” said David, who is now retired.
He is “deeply honored to have grown up in Janesville.”
And he is thankful to those who helped him along the way.
“I give great credit to the teachers and mentors who shaped me for the rest of my life.”
David’s story rises from a congregation rich in history.
People organized the parish Sept. 18, 1844, when the population of Janesville was only 200.
The first rector and the moving force behind the church was the Rev. Thomas J. Ruger, for whom Janesville’s Ruger Avenue is named.
The first services were held in a small brick schoolhouse on Bluff Street, which is now Parker Drive, on the east side of the Rock River. Eventually, workers built a church, consecrated in 1848, on the northwest corner of Laurel and North Jackson streets.
The existing Trinity Episcopal Church building was constructed in 1930 and renovated in 1978 and 1979.
The parish has the distinction of having had the first pipe organ in Janesville at a cost of $1,000, the first marble altar in the Wisconsin Territory and the first “vested choir in the West.”
The Rev. Kathy Monson Lutes is the current rector of the church.
She said it takes strong faith for a congregation to last 175 years.
“It is good to live with gratitude for those who came before us,” Lutes said.
As people who have committed to “living and loving the way Jesus did and does,” she said the congregation has important work to do.
“Our job as followers of Jesus in the 21st century is to love our neighbor, our neighbor who doesn’t look like us, think like us, love like us, speak like us, pray like us, vote like us, no exceptions,” Lutes said. “Today, as much as any day before us, we love our neighbor.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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