“The Running of the Kids”

When I find myself passing the school near the dismissal time, at 1 p.m., I often just find a place to stand aside and start smiling. The parents and grandparents are there to pick up their kids, making a ring around the entrance or waiting at a table at Bar Tullia, just beside the school.

Grandparents, parents and little sisters await the dismissal

Grandparents, parents and little sisters await the dismissal

The students are assembled in groups inside the door, with volunteers in bright vests both escorting them to the buses below in the Piazza Repubblica, or out the door to meet parents and often grandparents.

Groups assemble inside the door, waiting for the signal that they may go

Groups assemble inside the door, waiting for the signal that they may go

When “the moment” arrives, chaos breaks out. Carrying huge backpacks, the ones heading down to the buses start running to be the first ones in line at the two little grocery stores—for chips, ice cream or candy, since they only have minutes before the school buses leave for the surrounding communities. The rest know where Granddad or Mom or Dad usually waits, and meet up with them to walk home for lunch. (Italian “pranzo” is at 1:30, because the schools let out at 1 p.m., leaving just enough time to get home and get a seat at the table for lunch.)

The outpouring of kids begins

The outpouring of kids begins

Speed picks up for the bus riders, running to the stores

Speed picks up for the bus riders, running to the stores to be first in line

Downhill to the buses in the piazza

Downhill to the buses in the piazza

The street fills with the bus kids

The street fills with the bus kids

Before leaving, a shoe needed to be tied

Before leaving, Mom tied a shoe lace

The older kids are dismissed

The older kids are dismissed

Often grandparents collect the kids, while parents are at work

Often grandparents collect the kids, while parents are at work

Police and volunteers hold back traffic in the area during the dismissal time, and the kids are yelling and running and holding hands with friends and smiling. Parents calmly tie shoes, take over the backpacks, and walk them back home on the traffic-free streets.

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