Shortly after the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., a tragic incident in which 26 people—20 students and six adults—were shot to death, something radical happened at my daughter’s elementary school: Administrators decided to change the pickup procedure after school.
This may not blow your mind, but hordes of parents were shocked at this change to our small elementary school. In the past, parents had been allowed to walk into the back entrance (which is locked during the school day) after dismissal, chat in the hall with friends, hang out in the classroom and talk with teachers. I will admit, when we first started at this school two years ago, I was a little surprised that there was free rein in the school after dismissal. At the same time, I enjoyed the freedom to look at the artwork in the halls and talk with other parents.
The new policy calls for each teacher to walk his or her class outside, where parents must either greet their kids on the playground, or drive in the standard pickup line.
If I needed a reminder that people in general don’t like change, I certainly got one. For two weeks after the policy change, there were conversations on Facebook, letters to administrators and many heated talks on the playground. The opponents argue that kids aren’t any safer with this procedure, and that having parents in the hall after school actually can promote security in this neighborhood school.
Months later, occasional grumbling still can be heard about the bottlenecking of cars in the parking lot and the chaos outside. But in general, I think parents know that security after school is just as important as during school, when visitors have to check in at the office and wear a visitor’s badge.
On that note, this month begins a new series of columns: Safety at School. Written by designers as well as school administrators, the columns will discuss how design can play a part in providing safer schools for students, staff and visitors. But as we all know, most security discussions end with “you can’t prevent all tragedies.”
Changing a dropoff procedure at a school won’t guarantee a tragedy will never happen, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Lustig is executive editor of AS&U.