Plans are in the works to improve safety and traffic flow in our parking lot.
At Parent Night last week, I shared that the accreditation team from the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS) that visited our school last spring felt that major improvement we need to make has to do with our parking lot and drop off and pick up systems. Since a number of parents weren’t there for my remarks, I wanted to make sure that everyone had the chance to hear about AIMS’ conclusions since this issue has to do with the safety of our children — the most important task with which the school is entrusted.
AIMS said we need to improve our parking lot and pick up and drop off systems significantly in the long run and markedly in interim. What are the problems they identified? The same ones I write to you about regularly and that you write to me about regularly: with good intentions but without thinking, people put their own needs ahead of the overall need for safety of the whole community. Some parents drive too fast. Some are preoccupied with texting or talking on their phones. Some won’t follow faculty and staff direction (in fact, I’m sorry to say that a number are downright rude and defiant). Some don’t hold little children’s hands; and some don’t properly corral bigger kids. This all gets complicated by the fact that there are too many points where people cross traffic. You probably have noticed that this school year we have added additional staff to the parking lot at peak hours to try to make things safer.
Over the past several years, the school has engaged two traffic consulting firms to help us solve this. But in the end, they couldn’t identify a better, safer system that utilizes the same space we have and that would still allow parents to get out of their cars and come into the building if they want to. In fact, the visiting committee suggested that we explore a streamlined system that does not allow parents to exit their vehicles during drop off or pick up and that only students — and not parents — be able to come into the building. We will go to such a system if it becomes clear it is the only solution, but for longer than I have been here, the culture of the school has at least partially been defined — and enhanced —by parents coming in to the school.
For the long term, the Board and I have identified a plan that utilizes the neighboring properties we own to remedy this situation, but it entails raising significant funds, so it won’t happen over night. Here is how we are going to proceed for now. In the next few weeks I am going to hold a couple of open parent input sessions at different times of day so that people can offer their input into what they see as the problems and what they see as solutions. Then I will convene a small parking lot task force composed of some parents, trustees, teachers, and administrators to draft some alternatives for me to consider. I hope to have a new system in place for right after Christmas break.
I am not a traffic expert, and so at this point I don’t have the confidence that I can design a safer system than we have now. Ultimately we have to make sure that whatever changes we make don’t have unintended consequences of making other issues pop up.
Your can share input with me via email directed to email@example.com
. The two parking lot input sessions will be Wednesday, October 5, at 8:20 in the library room and Thursday, October 6, at 5:00 p.m. in room 1.
Ironically, of course, we collectively have the power to solve these problems overnight. If everyone would follow the safety-based rules of never driving faster than a slow walking child, putting your phone away as soon as you enter the lot, actively supervising your children in the lot, and being mindful of others’ needs when driving or parking, our children would be immediately safer. It depends on everyone’s willingness to, literally and figuratively, slow down. Your steadfast commitment, mindfulness, and resolve truly make a difference.