More than 40 parents turned out for the first Riverside Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) meeting Tuesday night, many with the same concerns in mind: the latest pick-ups of children at the elementary school.
New Riverside Principal Jodi Kennedy shared those same concerns, with an emphasis on her concern for safety after witnessing the after-school pick-ups during the first few days. Her concerns forced some changes to be tried beginning Sept. 7, which prompted parents to speak out on Tuesday.
Typically, Kennedy said parents had been able to come inside the school to grab their child during the chaos of trying to get the students to the bus. What alarmed her most was making phone calls to families last week of children whose parents grabbed them and were left unaccounted for.
“I had to make phone calls to at least five parents last week asking them where their child was,” she said. “That was a terrible thing to do, and yes the children were picked up by their parents, but in the mess of all the children trying to leave and parents get their kids...I wanted to try some things to make it safer.”
Kennedy explained that roughly 120-150 students get picked up from school each day, while the rest of the large school population takes one of the 13 buses. What staff at the school attempted to do was, instead of allowing parents to come in to the school and pick up their children, students would be released once buses left at 3 p.m. by curbside pick-up.
In the three trial days, Kennedy said from late buses and cars lining up as far as the river, plenty of problems arose. But the goal still remains the same to get the students out safely and efficiently.
“I understand that you want to get your kids and I understand you want to do that in a timely manner,” she said. “I have listened to your concerns and we are trying to make those things happen.
“I have spoken to other schools about possible solutions but what makes us different is the fact that we only have one road in. But I am here tonight to listen to your questions and suggestion to work together and figure something out that works well for the safety and efficiency of picking your children up.”
Many parents voiced the same concerns of problems with simply not having their child available to them at 2:45 p.m., when they need to be to other schools and appointments. Parents also felt very disconnected from the school and their children’s teacher and classroom, while other parents were concerned that they were no longer able to park their car in the parking lot across the street and walk to get their child. Yet amongst the angst and frustration, solutions were also offered by parents.
A number of parents suggested the school use the gym as a way to funnel parents into, so they are out of the lobby when teachers and students are working their way out to the buses, and possibly using parent volunteers to help. And plenty of parents suggested going back to the way things had been.
“I understand absolutely all of your concerns,” said Kennedy. “This is an issue that we are working tirelessly on solving. I appreciate all of you coming out and I hope you will continue to work and come to PTO meetings.”
Kennedy said talks will continue with district staff on other possible solutions like bus route times and parking and Riverside will continue to work toward providing a safe and efficient option for pick-up of its students.