BAXTER - The whole process takes about 15 minutes.
An estimated 125 Baxter Elementary School students are led by staff members to the back parking lot after school to be picked up by their parents or guardians. The students take about 80 steps down the curvy, bituminous walkway that is next to the cemetery and playground and they stand behind the chain-link fence, waiting for their name to be called over a megaphone.
Vehicles are lined one by one along the curb and down the road with their engines running, while parents wait for their turn to tell a staff member who to announce to be picked up.
The students walk outside at 2:45 p.m. and by 3 p.m. the staff are walking back into the school - 15 minutes and it's done.
Kim Larson, Baxter Elementary School educational assistant, Monday yelled student names as vehicles pulled up in the back parking lot. Baxter gives parents the option to pick up their children by going through the line by vehicle or they can park their vehicle and meet their child at the fence. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Baxter Principal Steve Lundberg said the process has worked well this school year. The change was necessary because of the increase in students being picked up each day. Last year, 50 students were picked up. This year there are more than 125, Lundberg said.
In previous years, the pick-up area was a circular drive parking lot on the back, west side of the school and the buses picked up students in the front of the school and the combination caused traffic congestion problems, said Lundberg.
School officials and Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted decided having children picked up in the school's back parking lot would be the best solution.
Jeannie Maurer Monday picked up her son, Gabe, after school at Baxter Elementary School. Parents may either walk up or drive up to pick up their children in a designated area behind the school. Other children either walk or take the bus home from school. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Our first and foremost concern is the safety of our kids and that is why we had to change the pick-up (area)," said Lundberg. "We're really landlocked here because of the cemetery and the gas station, but we do the best we can."
Lundberg said parents have two options. They can stay in their vehicle and have their child escorted to them or they can park their vehicle in the parking lot and go retrieve their child.
The school has about six staff members - from teachers to educational assistants - who assist each day.
"This is the best way that we came up with to move a high volume of kids and we have plenty of adults out there to help," said Lundberg. "It moves pretty smoothly.
"Our biggest concern is when it rains or gets really cold. That has not happened yet, but when it does we will keep the children indoors and then call the children by radio as the parents arrive.
"We came close that one day when it rained, but we were already outside when it started to rain so we made the decision to move it along as fast as we could. It didn't make sense to bring the kids back indoors and then make them go back outside. We held a few umbrellas together and huddled as many kids as we could under it until they left with their parents. I'm sure there were some unhappy moms out there, but we did what we thought was the best scenario at the time."
Exsted said the traffic situation has improved. Exsted said, "The pick-up is not ideal because of the setup of the school, but for the safety of the kids this is what works."
Earlier this fall, Lundberg requested a shelter be built for the waiting students. Lundberg said school district officials are considering the request.
Tammy Olson, Baxter Elementary School teaching assistant, guided students Faithline and Jessaline Crawford to a vehicle after school Monday in Baxter. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I don't have the money in my budget and in their defense they have to look at a number of concerns districtwide because of the financial situation," said Lundberg.
Lundberg said most parents have been understanding about the changes, but he has heard a handful of gripes.
"People are impatient - it's human nature," said Lundberg. "But most parents have thought that this has been positive and is more safe for our kids."
"It's horrible with the cold," said Marta McClanahan, a parent who has a Baxter kindergartner and a fourth-grader, on Monday while picking up her children. "I wish they could make a warming shelter, hallway or something. There was rain last week and those poor teachers and kids were drenched. This is a major difference from last year. At least last year they could stay indoors.
"I park when I come to pick up my kids because the line takes like 45 minutes."
In contrast, Baxter parent Lisa Hoffs said, "I'm thrilled with how the pick-up goes. It's the best valet service ever, especially if you have a toddler. It's brilliant, they just pop them in the car and you don't have to get out of your car.
"I've gotten smarter through time. I get in line during the last 10 minutes and it takes me two to three minutes to get through the line. If you get their earlier you have to wait longer because there are more people to go through."
Shana Krantz of Baxter said, "This is so much better than what they did last year. It is so much safer and that's the main thing that matters. Last year, I was always worried about the kids getting hurt."
Sherry Grabouski of Baxter agreed with Krantz.
"It's not perfect, but it's better than the alternative of what they did last year."
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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