YOU wouldn’t believe what parents can do in the space of half an hour. In our case, I am talking about getting one child dropped off at primary school each morning on the southside, but not before 8.30am, negotiating peak-hour traffic through the centre of the city to get another dropped off at high school on the northside by 8.50am on the dot, and still making it to work (well, sometimes) back south of the lake by 9am.
It can be a white-knuckle ride! The other day we were already running late when we had to stop to wait for a family of ducks to cross the road. I love ducks but, damn, they were slow. The clock was ticking and my son was insisting we play the song “Stressed Out” as his face grew ever more worried about being late for school.
There’s a huge bureaucratic rigmarole if any student is late. Fortunately, the ducks shook their tail feathers and we just managed to get to the school on time (all the while staying under the speed limit, I hasten to add).
Of course, we could have picked schools closer together, but that wasn’t the way it played out for numerous perfectly valid reasons at the time. Both schools are a perfect fit for our children, but there is a big logistical challenge every morning to get the kids to school on time, but not getting there too early.
For anyone unfamiliar with the system at most primary schools, children should not be dropped off before 8.30am when teachers are available to supervise them. Our daughter’s primary school starts at 9am. However, many high schools start before 9am and are strict about pupils needing to arrive on time. This does not leave much of a window of opportunity to execute the double drop off.
My daughter often pipes up about wanting to walk to school. It’s healthier. It’s only a 10-minute walk. She could walk with her friends. She could let herself out of the house at 8.30am and walk down to school with heaps of time to spare. I do think it would be great. As far as our mornings go, it’s a very tempting idea and I may agree sooner or later.
However, the other day a friend at work got an official phone call telling her that, while walking to school, her daughter and another girl had been closely followed by a man driving a van and had to run to get away from what could have been the sort of situation that all parents fear. Given that the incident took place in a nearby suburb, that put an end to any talk of walking to school for quite a while longer.
Some schools through various organisations such as the YMCA and Communities@Work do offer great before-school care programs, but if you are struggling to make ends meet the fees can be prohibitive, places can be limited and quite a few schools don’t have this option anyway. For us and many families like us, the difference in time between the arrival of teachers to supervise the kids in the playground and the time available for a second drop off and work is very limited.
Maybe it’s unavoidable, but I do remember a prominent former politician once saying that the dreaded double drop off was something that needed to be fixed. That didn’t happen.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for teachers to have to come in earlier, but maybe some more thought needs to be given to staggering school start times or some other measures that might better accommodate what are the realities of modern family life.