Like most parents in town, I have trouble getting the wee folk out the door in the morning. The Diva (6) needs to change her outfits at least twice and her older brother just doesn’t want to move. Then we have to remember books, lunches, snacks, musical instruments, etc. So the morning is stressful. What doesn’t help is the insanity of Drop Off.
The schools face one daunting mission: get several hundred kids from their parents’ cars into school safely. The challenges parents face are multiple: drive up to the school among a sea of other cars/vans, in some cases park so you can walk your child to the blacktop or the front entrance, get your kid out of the car safely, and return to the road.
If it sounds easy, it’s not. There are a variety of factors which make drop off either easy or antacid worthy. The streets the schools are often narrow. Some parents take their time while others are aggressive and virtually push their kid out of the car so that the adults can be on their way. The busier parents can be extremely intolerant of the slower parents. I was barraged by profanities from a fellow parent last year when I took an extra second getting Junior out of the car. Plus everyone is jockeying for the optimal position so their kid can get onto the sidewalk safely and, if the weather is wet, without Bobby or Cindy getting soiled.
Add to this mix the kids themselves and their accoutrements. Backpacks and musical instruments are cumbersome and heavy. Kids can be groggy, pokey in general, or hyper (my daughter greets her classmates with the same fervor she uses to greet long lost friends). And sometimes things happen: children trip, backpacks that are not properly closed can discharge their contents, kids forget things in the car, boots fall off, and parents are not kissed goodbye.
The needs of many clash even if the goal is the same. Is there a solution? Maybe. Whenever I’ve seen teachers, principals, or police officers at drop-off, I think the adults tended to behave themselves a bit better. The presence of authority figures slows everything down a bit. I remember seeing police officers on bicycles on the blacktop once and not only was the pace more civilized, but the kids thought it was great.
A friend of mine in West Orange reports that her school has Kiss and Go Drop-off. Teachers monitor the traffic flow so that a child exiting a vehicle kisses the parent, gets out of the car/van, and the parent pulls back into traffic. Is it a perfect system? No, but she tells me that most of the time it works quite well.
Personally, I would love to see enforcement of the cell phone policies, especially around the schools. Using a hand held communication device is a primary offense which falls under the category of distracted driving according to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission (www.state.nj.us/mvc/About/safety_cellphone.htm). Every day I see parents, even in the heat of drop-off, talking on hand-held cell phones! You’re distracted enough getting your child to school on time and then you’re illegally talking on the phone? That's unbelievably irresponsible and dangerous!
Drop-off, unless you’re home schooling, is a part of daily life if you’re the parent of a school-aged kid. Everyone wants it go smoothly, everyone wants it to go safely. I just wish people would take a moment to breathe and slow down a bit. Being more aware of what we’re doing and how we’re moving vehicles that weigh several thousand pounds is important. Drop Off should not any more stressful than it has to be and it should definitely not be dangerous.