Expect to hear quite a few happy South Florida motorists singing Alice Cooper’s 1972 hit School’s Out for Summer while they’re driving to and from work Friday.
Morning and afternoon commutes in Miami-Dade and Broward will get a little easier after public schools in both counties closed for summer recess Thursday.
For starters, roughly 1,300 school buses that move 62,000 students to 346 non-charter or non-private schools in Miami-Dade will be off the road. So, too, will some of the parents who drop off what’s left of the 355,912 students in Miami-Dade’s public school system, the nation’s fourth-largest school district.
In Broward, where roughly 260,000 students attend 238 traditional schools and 99 charter schools, there no longer will be 1,000 buses on the road carrying 80,000 students and clogging lanes.
And those school-crossing zones, whose blinking lights and signs remind drivers to keep it under 15 mph or risk a ticket, will be taking a break, too. During the school year, the zones slow traffic down as early as half an hour before school begins serving breakfast for students. In the afternoons, some of those zones remain operational for up to a half-hour after recess and bleed into 5 p.m. rush-hour traffic.
“My wife is a third-grade teacher at Brentwood Elementary [in Miami Gardens] — so she’s got two reasons to celebrate,” said Lionel Lightbourne, a 43-year-old social worker who drives through five school zones in the morning on his way from his home in Ives Estates to his job in Liberty City.
“When you take out the student drivers and then you take out the school buses and the blinking caution signs in the school zones, I can take 15 minutes off my commute.”
What is Lightbourne going to do with those extra 15 minutes in the morning?
“You know those extra 10 minutes you wish you had to stay in bed?” he said. “I’m going to use them.”
Pembroke Pines resident James Parker, 49, said he’s looking forward to no longer having to “perfectly time” when he leaves his house in the morning. Parker said that when school is in session, he has a five-minute window — from 8 to 8:05 in the morning — to leave his house and drive 14 miles in 45 minutes to his job in Miami.
If Parker leaves too early, he says he runs into traffic and school buses from nearby Chapel Trail Elementary and doesn’t gain any extra time on his commute. If he leaves too late, Parker says his drive from Pines Boulevard to I-75 extends by as much as 30 minutes because of traffic at Silver Trail Middle School.
“More than anything, I’m looking forward to no longer having to get upset by the people who zoom by you breaking the school zone speed limits to get in front of you,” Parker said. “Now that I’ll get to leave 15 minutes later, I’ll even have time for breakfast.”
Not all motorists in South Florida will get to enjoy a full summer off from school traffic.
Summer programs in Miami-Dade run from June 15 to July 23 but only at roughly 30 to 35 high schools and another 35 elementary or K-8 programs.
“Everybody’s happy, but for me, at least, it’s really not going to change,” said Jean Sabbagh, who lives in Kendall and says it still takes her a half-hour to go 4.9 miles from her home to the Metrorail station in the mornings, regardless of whether nearby Killian Senior High is in session.
“Years ago, you noticed the difference when school was out,” Sabbagh continued. “Now, it really doesn’t seem to matter.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Linda Robertson contributed to this report. This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at MiamiHerald.com/insight.
How many fewer people and buses will be off the road now that school is out for summer in Miami-Dade and Broward counties?
Students — Miami-Dade: 355,912; Broward: roughly 260,000
Schools — Miami-Dade: 346 traditional; Broward: 238 traditional, 99 charter schools
Buses — Miami-Dade: 1,300 (62,00 students); Broward: 1,000 (80,000 students)
Source: Miami-Dade and Broward public schools