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 firstname.lastname@example.org and voice your concerns. Please.
July 26, 2017 at 11:59 am
Heartfelt and well spoken! I’m sharing this blog post because there’s not one single life that’s worth more than the cost of a traffic device and an additional sixty seconds that a unfortunate trucker (more jobs,our economy,free enterprise, blah,blah,blah) or personal vehicle will be delayed, or inconvenienced, at that light. Having “laid hands” on many vehicles and their occupants after t-bone collisions, I can tell you that while few of those were injury free, all were tragic, and many were fatal. At best, the drivers and/or occupants are going to carry lifelong scars, be it emotional, or physical. In spite of GADOT’s stats, I’ve only worked a few rear-end collisions with injuries that were the result of a pesky traffic light addition on a busy thoroughfare such as Old Alabama Road. In almost all cases, the cause was an inattentive driver following the lead vehicle too closely, not an child, parent, or school bus leaving their school to go home via a traffic light controlled intersection. My Dad told me frequently, “Don’t confuse cost and price!” GADOT, please don’t confuse those, too.
July 26, 2017 at 11:50 pm
I am an experienced driver and I almost got hit pulling out of the school by a car that was turning into the school and decided last minute to go straight. My son will be driving this year and I am worried about this.
July 27, 2017 at 12:24 am
I definitely understand your concern as a parent. My daughters both graduated from Woodland, and I worried every time they pulled out. And that was long before the proposal to widen the road and up the speed limit.
July 30, 2017 at 4:55 pm
Sooo, there’s a project, in Bartow County, that clearly is more important than the students, staff and parents at Woodland. It even qualified for Quick Response Program funding. https://patch.com/georgia/cartersville/new-traffic-signal-coming-highway-61-bartow-county?utm_source=newsletter-daily&utm_medium=email&utm_term=politics%20%26%20government&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_content=article-topstories&utm_slot=1
July 30, 2017 at 6:52 pm
Why does this. It surprise me? Business always wins and students never come first. So imminently frustrating!
July 31, 2017 at 1:04 am
Sadly it took the life of one of our youth in 2006 to get that light now at the intersection of Old Alabama & Hwy 113. That was the year my youngest son graduated from Woodland High School. Such a sicking situation that GDOT refused to light that intersection until after her death! Which was a direct result of an auto accident at that intersection!
For several years I drove a school bus for BCSS. I was also a Georgia State Certified Classroom Instructor for new drivers, as well as current staff such as coaches. I would have loved to stay with the BCSS, but once my youngest graduated WHS in 2006, it was necessary for me to move to a higher paying position.
As an experienced veteran CDL holder, of over 30 years, (20 at that time), there was not one single time I actually felt safe leaving the WHS campus, especially in the afternoons. On the very rare occasion that I wasn’t on my bus, ergo in a 4 wheeled vehicle, it was terrifying to pull out of that campus. It was even more terrifying with a bus loaded with students. Traffic in that area was atrocious over 11 years ago. I shudder to think of what it is like out there today!