For school kids, summer vacation just isn't what it used to be.

In my day, the last day of the school year was the day before Memorial Day. That was always on May 30. Each school year faithfully began on the first Tuesday after Labor Day which fell on the first Monday of September and still does.

We walked a half mile one way on dirt roads to catch the school bus which took us another two miles to the one room country school. The next two years that daily trip was extended two more miles to a three room town school when all the one room country schools were closed.

This benefited both the farmers and the kids. The farmers always needed extra help planting the spring seeds and harvesting it in late summer. The kids always needed additional spending money. After all, as a teenager, when that blue eyed, dimple cheeked, curly haired blonde sitting two rows across from you starts giving you the eye, you can never have enough money in your pocket to buy her that special root beer ice cream soda you heard she likes.

But times have changed. Those days are gone. Today, the school year ends on or about the second week of June. In some cases it extends almost to the first day of summer. It depends on how many days were lost in the school year due to bad weather, such as heavy snows, extreme hot weather and flooding.

The new school year starts even earlier. As I write this, there are schools that have already begun. Here in northeastern Ohio, they start this week for some schools and the beginning of next week for others.

But things haven't changed that much for kids. Those first few days back to school are still exciting. They see old friends, try to forget about last year's bullies and frequently make new friends. Some cannot wait to tell others about their summer vacation or about the "record" walleye they hooked in Lake Erie. Others can't wait to boast about the championship baseball trophy they won or how they made the soccer team. And there's always hope for a candle of romance to softly glow in the eyes of that special someone you noticed near the end of the previous year.

Now with all that on young people's minds you can imagine there's little room for anything else, especially common sense safety issues like looking both ways before crossing a busy highway. Other than the occasional farm tractor or a car or two back in the '50s, there was little cause for cautiousness. But with many more vehicles on the road today, that's not the case any more. That's why it's so important for you to be more aware of your driving this time of the year than at any other time.

If you're told to slow down in order to give wildlife a chance, do it for kids, too. Yes, slow down. Give your kids a 'brake.' They will not watch out for you. The girls still have that blond hair, blue eyed football player on their minds. The boys wonder if she still enjoys that same flavored ice cream soda. If you remember what it was like when you were that age, it means you must watch out for them.

One more word of caution. You may be in a hurry, late for work or on your way to a special appointment, but please wait until the school bus red lights stop flashing before continuing on your way. Just because the bus door are closed isn't a green light to go. There could still be kids in front of the bus that you can't see if you're stopped behind it.

If we can get through a whole school year without injuring a child, we'll have you to thank.

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