This is where I went to elementary school.
James Monroe School, built in 1931, was probably a model of modern school buildings in its day. Its slate roof and copper gutters had to cost a fortune. It was built anticipating growth on South Bend’s south side. I once saw a 1941 photograph of a class taken as they stood in neat rows near the flagpole on the lawn. Beyond the school to the east (left in the photo) lay an open field that stretched to the horizon. My parents’ house, and the street it sits on, would lie a block away in that direction in ten years. The street in my photo, Donmoyer Ave., ended just east of the school at Fellows St., and Fellows St. ended its southward journey at Donmoyer Ave. Both streets continue for many blocks beyond this intersection today. So growth did come, especially after World War II. The school was filled beyond its capacity in the 1950s, with classes being taught in the stairwells. The building was expanded several times to keep up. In 1972, when I arrived at James Monroe School, neighborhoods stretched for a couple miles in all directions. Each school day, six hundred children filled the sidewalks morning and afternoon, converging at four intersections near the school. I was a crossing guard and for two years stood mornings at this intersection, on the corner from which I took this photo.
Imagine this corner packed with children crossing at the police woman’s okay, children running along the sidewalk to their entrances, moms dropping kids off at the curb, and starting in 1976 a bus or two dropping off black students after the school system chose to integrate to avoid being forced to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if buses line these streets today while neighborhood children continue to walk, creating just as much congestion around the school as ever. So it’s not surprising that the city has posted one of these signs one block away from the school in each direction:
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Any time you see children within a block of the school, you slow to 25 miles per hour. It’s safer for the children in case they dart out into the street.
All of my sons have attended Crooked Creek Elementary School, one of the oldest schools in Indianapolis. It was was founded in 1837 along the Michigan Road (Indiana’s first state road, which stretched from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan) at a time when this part of northwest Marion County was way out in the boondocks. Its current building was built in 1985, a sprawling single story of tan brick and open classrooms, to serve the growing suburban population. Here’s a view of the school from Kessler Blvd., along the school property’s southern boundary.
Of course, you can’t see the school from Kessler Blvd. because it is set a good distance back. You can see only a tiny bit of the school from Michigan Rd. This school is well secluded.
Nobody walks to Crooked Creek. It’s suicide to try; both Kessler Blvd. and Michigan Rd. are thick with 45-mph traffic most of the day, and there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. For many decades, every student at Crooked Creek has been driven to and from school, whether by parent or by bus. Once dropped off, it’s quite a walk back to the road. In my 13 years in Indianapolis, having driven by the school on school days thousands of times, I have never seen a single child along the roads that border the school.
The city was slow to install school speed limit signs around the school, not that it meant the 25-mph limit wasn’t in place anyway. But last year, signs like this one finally appeared near the school along both Michigan Rd. and Kessler Blvd.:
Drivers must slow down from 7:00 am to 4:30 pm any day school is in session. I understand how it’s prudent to slow down when parents and buses are coming and going given the traffic congestion. But I don’t understand why I have to drive 25 mph past this school at 10:30 am or 1:15 pm when no children are around, no buses are shuttling them, and no parents are driving in and out.
I can’t think of another situation in north and northwest Indianapolis where a school is so hidden from the road. But most schools in these former suburbs are set well back from the road, with buses and cars being the only way children are transported to and from school. Except at arrival and dismissal times, you never see a student.
Why do we have to slow down at times when nobody, but nobody, is going to be outside the school building? Why can’t they put flashers on the sign, time the flashers to when children are arriving or leaving, and make the speed limit stick only when the lights flash? I wonder this every time I creep by a school at 11:30 am, not a soul in sight for blocks. I slow down only to avoid being ticketed. I sure don’t like having the only reason I obey a law be to avoid the penalty for disobedience.
Updated 27 July 2008 to remove broken link to Crooked Creek Elementary School history pages.