Woodland High School is located on a thoroughfare that is in the process of being widened into a four-lane bypass, complete with 44-foot median and 55 mph speed limit.  We have 1500 students at our school: young adults full of hope and promise. They are our future. They are our present. They are their parents’ everything. Every year 1/3 of these students will be driving to and from school. 100% of these students are young and inexperienced drivers. Science tells us their frontal lobes will not fully mature until they are 25. They do not necessarily understand their own mortality. Young people are risk takers. They have been so since time immemorial.

Driving this bypass will be tractor trailers – 80,000 pounds of engine and steel barreling toward society’s most vulnerable drivers. Drivers notorious for making errors in calculation and errors in judgment. One need only check insurance rates and accident statistics to understand the risks that are anticipated and documented amongst this demographic. An average of nine teens (ages 16-20) are killed in automobile accidents  daily. Yet the Georgia DOT refuses to acknowledge the elevated risk of serious injury or death for our Woodland students.

For two years – ever since our Central Office learned of the plans to widen Old Alabama Road – we have requested a traffic signal be installed at our school out of concern for our young students. For two years, they have denied us. They argue that traffic lights are expensive and that the traffic and accident studies do not warrant such an expense.

Are you telling me that the lives of young sixteen and seventeen-year old adolescents are not worth $120,000 – the estimated cost of said light? According to internet sources, that would equate to .007% of the 2017 GA DOT budget. Now, I’m certainly no math teacher, I’m one of those English types, but I did consult one, and I’m here to tell you, that’s nothing more than a drop in the ocean for them. If you ripped a sheet of paper into 1000 pieces, it would be seven of those tiny bits. But it’s a mega big deal for us. It’s life and death.

I teach approximately 180 high school students every school year. And I’m here to tell you that every single one of these students is irreplaceable. Every single one of them enriches my life. Every single one of them will impact the world. Their value is impossible to calculate. I will tell you this: $120,000 doesn’t come close.

As teachers, we have been chosen. We are following our calling – to save the lives of children through education. We have vowed to give them the tools they need to secure their futures, to fulfill their destinies. We become teachers because we believe in the value and potential of every child. We are passionate about saving students from all sorts of situations detrimental to their lives: self doubt, self harm, harsh environments, poverty cycles, apathy, violence, etc. Rest assured, as teachers we will fight to save our students from this danger as well.  Educators do not give up.

Every year, each of us takes students under our wings, students whom we adopt as our “special projects.” Oftentimes, these are children whom others around them have deemed lost causes, who need more of our time and attention because they just don’t understand the good they can accomplish in the world, the value that they possess.

This traffic light has now become the “special project” of every educator at Woodland High School. Others may see it as a lost cause. Others may have written it off as unwarranted or argue (under all sorts of semantics and statistical mumbo jumbo) that the benefit of saving one human life is not worth the cost. As educators, however, we are not giving up. Our students matter. We invest blood, sweat, tears and love into these children so they can have a bright future. We refuse to see that future snuffed out in the blink of an eye because the Georgia Department of Transportation refuses to invest $120,000 in the lives of Bartow County’s children.

Please help us in our fight. Contact gwaldrop@dot.ga.gov and voice your concerns. Please.