Dismissal Policies, Afterschool Pickups Rankle Parents

Parents are getting frustrated with the long lines they have to put up with to pick up their children from school, as well as being concerned about safety issues created by chaotic dismissal policies, reports Lauren Roth of the Orlando Sentinel.

In Central Florida and across other parts of the nation, traffic jams are created twice a day when parents drive their kids to school and back home. Orange County alone has 6 schools with major traffic problems, and as a result an overhaul is being initiated into how parking lots are designed.

Lake County is trying to remedy the problem of school traffic jams by increasing the length of the runs that school buses do. The stops that the buses make is also being changed in order to ensure that the overall travel time of the schools buses is reduced. This means the kids being picked up furthest away do not have an extremely long travel time.

Scott Layne, a national expert on the matter, says the problem is rooted in the fact that when the schools are designed no consideration is given to their traffic strategies.

I would say every school, probably in the country, has this problem,” though not to the same extent, said Scott Layne, a national expert on school-transportation issues who works for the Irving Independent School District in Texas. “We don’t design the schools to handle that amount of traffic because of the expense and the short amount of time in which it occurs.

Additional parking lots have to built in order to combat the problem of traffic. Those expansions are not cheap, with some schools spending as much as $200,000 in order to add two small parking lots. Some of the quick solutions that schools are coming up with are not to everyone’s liking, for example one school made a canopy extension which had a mixed response from the parents.

One of the solutions recommended by experts is to design communities and schools so that walking and biking is possible for more students.

“In 1969, most students walked to school most days. Now it’s around 10 percent,” said Mark Plotz, an expert on safe walking routes to school for Project for Public Spaces, a New York-based nonprofit. “It’s normal to these parents to put the kids in the car and drive them.”

Elementary schools have an even greater traffic problem because kids at that age do not usually have any after school activities to stagger the pickup time. Additionally, elementary schools students are often not trusted to walk home alone, and for this reason the traffic at those types of schools can get out of hand quickly.

An increase in the number of school bus routes and car park spaces is the way to remedy the problem, but as funding around the country is not in abundance every dollar needs to be spent wisely.