There are some things that happen that let you know the storm in your life is subsiding and normalcy is on the way. Here comes the sunshine.
For instance, your car has finally been repaired and you don’t have to depend on others for transportation.
Those orange cones have been moved from the roadway, reducing your stress level and the travel time to work.
Your spouse has finally found what he or she has been looking for in the very spot you know your spouse should have looked first. (OK, I just added that one for my own pleasure.)
Earlier this summer, I got some good news for my neighborhood. However, since I’m an old reporter, I know that good news is often a promise traveling down a hazardous road. Anything can, and will, get in the way.
The news was that the elementary school in my eastern Baton Rouge neighborhood was going to reopen this fall. It had been closed since the flood of August 2016.
Then I saw yard signs up throughout the neighborhood announcing the school will be open for sure and that parents could start signing up their children.
Another promising indicator was the white crosswalk striping on the streets near the school. Game on.
Why the heck do I care? My youngest child left our neighborhood school more than 20 years ago. There are no more Pratt children headed to that school.
Here’s why I care.
Parts of my neighborhood were hit hard during the flood. On my block alone, all the houses except my mine and a neighbor's were damaged. Since 2016, almost all of the people affected throughout the subdivision have returned. That’s a great feeling.
The neighborhood school, even though many of us don’t have children there, is a symbol of normalcy. Nothing says stability and hope more than a neighborhood school, especially an elementary school. And now, it’s back.
This is the school where my son met his best friend Chris in kindergarten. They have been the best man at each other’s weddings. It’s where my son asked me, “How much do you already know?” when I turned to ask him about his second-grade teacher telling me about his bad behavior in class. And, it was that same teacher who made a point to visit him when he was sick and out of school for two days.
No, I won’t have a child at the school. But I will be able to look out of my window in the mornings and see children walking down the sidewalks or riding their bikes. That’s normal.
I’m going to have to pay closer attention again when I back my car out of the driveway. You can never be too careful. But that’s normal.
I’m sure the parents who had to have their children moved to other schools for two school years will be extremely happy that the neighborhood school is now back.
Maybe I’ll visit the school and read some stories to the children. I’m really good at doing character voices. Well, I’m not that good, but for first- and second-graders, I might be top shelf.
But there is something else. I will be a better member of the school community. Since I didn’t have a child at the school, I disengaged myself from the activities there. I will change that now.
It is important that people like myself and others attend meetings, listen to the goals and needs of our schools. We can offer ideas and financial help to broaden the educational opportunities of the students we don’t know.
I want to inspire people in the community like myself to find a niche where we can help young people, teachers and administrators at our neighborhood school believe that there are others who care a lot about their success.
But I’ll ask the school leaders for something, too. I want them to be more engaging with the community. Invite us there so that you know who we are and what we can bring to the school. There are retirees of many professions, some of whom are educators, who can enrich the educational experience of the students.
Go ahead, meet us. Canvass the neighborhood. There are some people who may just need to be nudged a bit. That’s what I want this time around.
My community will be back officially when the school bell rings next month signaling the first day of school. I can’t wait.
And, the school and those students can count on seeing me.