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June 12, 2009

Voices Heard

Joe Charlebois

The Frederick County Board of Education must have just received their shipment of ZA 10 batteries. For those who don't know what ZA 10's are, they are batteries used in hearing aids.


The board has finally listened to the public on several matters, including putting off the controversial redistricting plan and cutting the funding for the diving boards and other associated costs involved in the varsity swimming program.


Not quite. Only if the board would revisit the requirements that have some students walking to schools that should otherwise have bus transportation available to them would it have actually replaced all the batteries needed.


I truly have no issue with the distances per se; but rather with the paths that many of the students will be required to take. Even though the school is promoting the federal Department of Transportation’s "Safe Routes to School," Frederick County does not lend itself to a perfect situation. There are sidewalk gaps in many of the county's paths, or the students are required to take one specific route to school.


The Board of Education will state that they can't require a student to take a specific route; however, this flies in the face of reason. When a decision was made for students attending Monocacy Middle School (consisting of both city and county residents) the board has students running a serpentine route through a county neighborhood to avoid a 10th-of-a-mile stretch of Opossumtown Pike that has no sidewalk. The neighborhood has no sidewalks, either!


Again it is not the distance but the manner in which the board has come to this decision. It did not have public debate on this matter. They have not taken into consideration that they are forcing the students to walk to school in the same pattern day after day. If there was any deviation in the path to school, it would create walking distances beyond the current mile-and-a-half.


The board has to draw the lines somewhere, and I am well aware of that; but the fact remains that if "for the safety of the children" some students are walking the one route that the school has deemed appropriate if may well make it easier for predators to find their prey.


The longer the walk, the more predictable the path, the easier it will be. These aren't just "what if's," but real life issues. In the past few years there have been at least – to my knowledge – two attempts at abductions in the northern part of the City of Frederick.


There should have been public debate on this subject. The fact that the board avoided taking this to public discussion is preposterous. The decision needed to be made sooner, according to board members due to pending orders for buses. Even if that was the fact, the order could have still been cancelled and a public debate could have been conducted.


I don't know if it is too late for any sort of revision to the busing issue; but, for the safety of the students, this needs to be addressed on a school-by-school basis. Whether it is crossing guards or the presence of other public officers, we owe it to our children to provide a safe environment to learn.


I am glad to see that the board is hearing the citizens of Frederick County in other matters. Now only if the board would handle this and all other issues with the same common sense.


As a former diver in high school, I applaud the board for looking for a way to keep what is an event within the swim meet. Common sense prevails.


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