Pick up procedure - School security

amj0517January 27, 2014

Hi everyone,

I'm hoping to tap in to the experiences of other parents here. When we were kids school security didn't seem to be a major concern, but unfortunately, things are different today. In fact, my preschooler had a "lock down drill" last week at school.

I am wondering what the procedure is at your child's school for picking them up at the end of the day. My oldest is in kindergarten so this is a whole new world for me. His school changed things this year to tighten security. Parents were not permitted in the building for regular school pick up. Instead, we were given a number that we held up outside the building, and the students have a corresponding number pinned to their back packs. When the teachers saw a match the child would be sent out to the parents. This process was less than perfect in my opinion, but I understand and appreciate that they are trying to keep the school secure.

Now that the weather has turned (we're in MI and it has been single digit temperatures), the school changed the procedure so students go to the gym and sit in numbered sections, parents are then let in the building and when parents and kids see each other they checkout with a teacher.

As much as I hate standing outside in the cold, this new process completely defeats the original intent of keeping people out of the building. I hate the new (and old) procedures, but I don't think it is fair to complain unless I can offer a suggestion for improvement.

So please help me if you can. How are things done at your school? Does it work? Do you feel that it is efficient for everyone, and safe?


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Well, my DD's school is probably different because it's a small private school. The way they handle pickup is: cars line up outside the school, and there are 3 different pickup doors depending on the grade. Each car has a sign on the dashboard with the child's name on it (these are given to us at the beginning of the school year). When the teacher sees that a child's parent is there, s/he calls the child (they are all waiting either outside the door or just inside the door, signs him/her out on a checklist, and the kid gets in the car.

In our neighborhood public elementary school, as of 2nd grade, the kids are just let out the back door to find their own parents or walk home. (Until then, the teachers bring the class out to the front door and hand off kids to their parents.) Not a terribly secure system there, but so far they haven't encountered problems with it...surprisingly?!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 1:45PM
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Seems like a cumbersome and confusing procedure.

My kids attended a private school so there wasn't really a neighborhood pattern, ie most all the parents drove the kids to/from school. Drop off and pick up was handled with a system in which at the start of the year parents got placards to put on the front dashboard of their cars. IIRC the surname of the child(ren) and their grade was on the card. The school had a circular drive way so parents were supposed to stay in the car, lined up, and the kids waited for them just outside the building, in their class groups with their teachers. The teacher would see the placard, walk the child to the car, put her/him in, and off went the parent. On rainy days the kids waited in their classrooms and there were teacher 'runners' who would walk them out with an umbrella Um, did I mention it was a pricey private school? :)

It worked okay. The start and end times were staggered so the entire school wasn't trying to drop off and pick up at the same time. It still got crowded but it was workable.

The only real issues were with inconsiderate parents-- there used to be some major snarls when a monster SUV was left parked in the midst of thru-traffic because some impatient mom decided she couldn't wait so she would just stop the car, get out and leave it in the middle of the traffic stream to get her kid. Um, did I mention that it was a pricey private school with some majorly entitled mommies? :)

Funny/horrifying aside: OJ Simpson's kids attended this school and I was the PTA president when they were admitted. One of the stipulations of allowing them to enroll was that he was not allowed on school grounds; his sister I believe (the kids' aunt) had to handle drop off and pick up. The Bush (Jeb) kids went there too and when grandpa was president the Secret Service used to handle getting them to/from school. Good times...


    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 1:55PM
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I think the placard in the windshield is in the most common. We tried to get our school to change to that last year but the principal did not approve it. Not sure why because our current system is somewhat of a mess.
We have a smaller school and the dismissal times are staggered. The parents just park and hang out on the sidewalk in front of the school. The teachers bring the kids out and each parent has to flag down their child and the teacher to get them released. It's a busy mess. And we do it rain, shine, cold or hot. The pre-k and kindergarten dismiss to a side door.
The only upside I guess is that the teachers and most parents see each other every day in case there's anything that needs to be discussed.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 4:32PM
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Our kids also go to private school and do the placard in the windshield thing. It works pretty well, but I'm happy to hear we aren't the only school with impatient/thoughtless parents (is this a private school thing?). My dd's friend has serious health issues and uses crutches. There are parents who honk and complain (loudly) about how long it takes her to get out of the car. They also use her handicapped parking stall. They are all very familiar with her situation. I also heard a story about parents not moving cars out of the way for an ambulance (even tho directly asked), but didn't personally witness this.

The Kindergarten parents are allowed to park and enter the building to pick up. We have a new security system this year and parents have a neon pink but smallish square of plastic with the school name on it. They can flash this to the security to be allowed inside if they need to enter just for a few minutes if they need to talk to a teacher or the like.

This post was edited by daisychain01 on Mon, Jan 27, 14 at 20:53

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 8:15PM
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My grandkids' school district installed ATM-like check-in machines in the outer hallway. The entire district is a bussed district - no walkers allowed, but if you're on the list to pick up a child (the parent has to email the school daily to inform them of the pickup) you have to go through the machine. When you go to pick the child up you have to check in by having your picture taken by the machine, then sliding your driver's license through the kiosk and then the machine either allows or disallows your entry. The weak point of this is that after the checking in process, it relies on a human guard to allow access into the main lobby where your child is waiting. There, one of the teachers has a check list which you have to sign. Since I do this 3 days a week, it's a little smoother, but it is a hassle to get that driver's license out each and every time.

Frankly, if the point of this is to keep crazies out of the building, I doubt if it would do the job.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 12:23AM
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This is all crazy. Put them on a bus, they will walk up to several blocks home. Nothing worse than sitting behind a car that holds a kid not really ready to hop out. Or the prim a-donnas that have to be RIGHT in front of the door instead of one or two cars back. How do you not go raving mad??!!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 5:28AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I admit, I am a bit amazed at some of the procedures. At my kids school, there are 2 teachers for each grade. One teacher walks the bus kids to the bus and the other teacher walks pick up kids outside. For that, there is a line of cars where the teachers put the kids in the car (obviously small school so they are pretty aware of who the parents are) and parents can also walk up.

At my nephew's school, all the parents go into the cafeteria who are picking up children. This is at the front of the school so still limits access.

My guess is that pick-up time is less likely to be a time for crazies as there are so many more adults around, although I have not researched it.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 12:37PM
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Private school here as well. Our system is like SueBs. We have 2 lines which are divided A-M and N-Z (last names). One line goes through the parking lot and one through the circle drive. Parents drive through the lines with their placards. Teachers have walkie talkies and call out for the kids and they are placed into the cars. It's very smooth and efficient.

The only time it gets screwed up is when someone "cuts" into line, that I suspect doesn't understand the system.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 1:01PM
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I can't even begin to post the pickup procedures for my kids' school (also private) - their school is located on a main one-way thoroughfare in our town's historic/tourist district. There are three dismissals - one for kids begin picked up in the lower lot car line, one for the upper lot car line and the walkers, who are dismissed first. But not all walkers are walkers - they are picked up/walk off campus (depending on their age) and are picked up on streets in the surrounding neighborhood. My own kids walk one block downtown to the main tourist district where there are shops/restaurants - they wait for me in front of a restaurant, along with a large group of other kids whose parents do the same. For years though, when my kids were younger, I did the car line. In ours, cars have a placard with the name of their carpool. 5 cars at a time, they pull into a parking area where teachers use bullhorns to call out the carpool name and number of the spot where they need to go (accompanied by an aide). There is no way to butt in the line.

Drop off in the morning is a completely different story. The upper parking lot is closed to cars as that is where each class lines up in the morning - kids stay here until the bell rings then they proceed into the buildings with their class and aide. No parents allowed to walk kids into the buildings. The drop off line is along the curb of the above mentioned thoroughfare, a two lane street. I can't begin to explain, but the "my time is way more important than yours" parents routinely drive down the left lane then cut over at the last minute, blocking all the regular cars who have been patiently following the rules. Every single time I dropped off there, I came away full of stress/annoyance that I no longer use the curb lane. We either park downtown and walk the block up to school, or I drop my kids off in the lower lot and have them walk all the way around to the upper lot.

In terms of safety, our school has several buildings, all with security cameras. You have to either have a swipe card (employees) or be buzzed in. It's relatively safe, but not fool proof. With the aftercare program, they have a more sophisticated system using a fingerprint machine for dismissing students to their parents or permitted adult, however, the school is completely unlocked for all the other kids who participate in after school activities. For example, if my daughter stays after for her running clinic, I walk right into the building and upstairs to her classroom to sign her out. During the day, the door is locked and someone has to buzz you in. So it's a little ridiculous that they don't enforce security after school.

I don't really worry about the safety aspect to be honest. I live not 30 minutes from the mall in Columbia MD where the shooting recently occurred. I routinely drop my 14 y/o dd off at our own local mall with her friends. Unfortunately, I can't protect her everywhere she goes. That shooting, and others, have given me pause, but I've had conversations with my dd about what she should do if something like that were to happen.

In terms of safety at your school, are you worried about the possibility that someone is going to get in the building during dismissal and cause harm to those inside? I'm not trying to make light of your concerns, but if you are that concerned, perhaps talking with an administrator will help come up with an alternate solution or maybe alleviate your worry.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 1:58PM
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Thanks for the replies so far. The placard in the car window would be ideal, although I'm not sure how the layout at our school could accommodate that. I appreciate everyone sharing.

fourkids4us - I am not worried about safety any more than any other parent would be. I think that the chance of a crazy person entering the school is slim, but history has shown us that it can happen. My reason for mentioning the safety aspect is that the school used it as the reasoning behind the new system at the beginning of the school year. I am frustrated that safety was their "number one concern" in the fall and the reason why parents couldn't freely enter the building, but now that it is cold outside, they're willing to overlook that earlier stipulation. I've spoken with several other parents and we're all on the same page. I'd love to come up with a solution that can be presented to administration and hopefully we can find a process that works for everyone.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 3:29PM
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Ahh, one of my pet peeves!

We have three kids in three different private schools, with three different procedures. Oh and there are three of us (DH, me and our nanny) who might get any given child on any given day at any given time given after school activities, games, etc. All of them implemented new procedures since Dec '12.

We are in CT not that far from Newtown. I understand that fear. But I personally think it is ridiculous to lock down elementary and middle schools. At one of my kid's schools, a PTO mom was lamenting that yes, they had added a guardhouse and a guard but ... was the guard armed?

People are crazy.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 4:18PM
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Mtn, I totally agree.

I had to laugh when our school sent out a long email last year about the security precautions they had taken, listing them all in great detail.

But they left one thing out…the elementary and high school shares a cafeteria. It's located in the high school building which has a breezeway connected to the main elementary school building. The other buildings enter from a separate door using a teacher's swipe card. To get to the main office in the elem school, you can enter by being buzzed in from the upper lot which is somewhat like a courtyard, or you can walk up a back outside stairway from the lower lot. At the top is a back entry into the high school which is connected to the elem school there by a short hallway. You open an unlocked door at the top of the stairs that leads directly into one of the high school hallways or turn left where you are confronted with a locked door into the main lobby/office of the elem school. You have to be buzzed in. Yet you can walk right through that enclosed "breezeway," which intersects with several hallways of the high school - no doors, to the cafeteria. So anyone who wants to create mass carnage can easily walk in that back doorway, go straight through to the cafeteria during one of the many lunch periods, and have at it. it makes absolutely no sense! Yet the high school does not want to lock that door b/c the h.s. library and art rooms are in a separate building across from the unlocked doorway and they don't want to give the h.s. kids key cards to move back and forth b/w class periods.

So I'm shaking my head at all the money spent on these security measures yet there is one unlocked door that is easily entered relatively inconspicuously, and leads directly to the school cafeteria.

So yes, I understand you questioning their reasoning, amj!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 4:52PM
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