It’s back to school time again

Even school isn’t what it used to be

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Like everything else, it seems, back to school season is more complicated than it used to be.

Not too many years ago, school began the day after Labor Day – on the first Tuesday of September. For all the years I went to school, that was just one of the non-negotiable guidelines of school attendance. Parents, students, teacher and school staff could count on the nearly-set-in-stone opening date of the school year. But in the 2020s school can begin almost any time from late August to mid-September – on almost day. The once near-sacred Tuesday beginning date could be a Wednesday, or Thursday or even a Friday.

Getting there

In summary, the road back-to-school is getting more dangerous. Not long ago, school buses transported most students. Those who didn’t catch a bus got to school on their own – usually by foot or by bicycle. If you happen to pass by a school at or near opening time, or closing time, you know that this is no longer the case.

For whatever set of reasons, most parents drive their students to school – even if it is only a few blocks. To put it mildly, this, at best, is an ideal setting for accidents.

I have dropped off and picked up my share of school kids. I am always amazed at how few accidents there are.

With drivers on their way to work, or barely awake, or distracted by their kids – or a few dozen other kids rushing to see their friends, running back to get forgotten lunches, last minute classroom projects and hundreds of other details – the school delivery project is an experience with dozens of moving parts – any one of which could lead to disaster.

And for us in Washington state, the numbers don’t look good. For one thing, across Washington, back-to-school fatalities are up 77% just since 2018. And nationwide, the numbers aren’t much better – back-to-school fatalities are up 8% nationwide.

Besides the usual hazards, many high school aged students have acquired their driving licenses. According to a recent USA Today survey, from 2018 to 2021, August and September fatalities among 16- to 24-year-olds increased by 8% nationwide. In some states, the increase in traffic fatalities was well over 300%.

Consider this; the number of traffic fatalities involving 16- to 24-year-olds in three states increased by 325% in Massachusetts, 77% in Washington and 75% in Illinois. Not every state saw an increase; back-to-school fatalities decreased by 45% in Kentucky, 46% in Louisiana and 75% in Idaho.

To keep it civil out there, keep an eye on the kids – all of the kids – and obey the basic rules of the road. And perhaps most important of all, be a good neighbor.

School Daze sticker shock

It’s not your imagination – school supplies cost more than they used to. Usually a lot more.

According to the National Retail Federation, families with middle-school or high-school-aged children are expected to spend an average of $890 on school supplies this year, $25 more per family than as recently as 2022.

If you have school age kids in your life, you know the near endless financial demands of school these days.

It’s not just school clothes

Once upon a time, besides shoes and some clothes, pencils, pens, a folder or two and loose leaf paper were almost everything a student needed. In the 2020s in-fashion backpacks and the latest electronic devices can demolish the best planned school budget.

There are many ways to save money on back to school stuff, but they all take planning, preparation and a good amount of trading and negotiating with students, schools and other parents.

In short, it’s learning time for all of us – not just the kids.