There Are Rules. But They Don’t Apply to YOU.

Getting our children to school in the morning safe, sound and on time.

Drop off and pick up at .  You know where I’m going with this: The seemingly endless line of cars waiting to drop off children in the morning.  Cars lined-up along the curb waiting for children to emerge and be whisked away to a practice, tutor, orthodontist appointment or just home faster than the school bus can carry them in the afternoon.

Navigating the school parking lot at Middlesex can be a nightmare, whether you arrive at 1:50 for a 2:22 dismissal just to get a good spot in the pick-up circle or you arrive (as I do) at 2:25, park your car in the lot and walk to the crosswalk to meet your children.

There are rules for the parking lot, of course, which are intended to keep the students, teachers and the parent drivers safe, and to instate some semblance of order and decorum over a daily event that could easily dissolve into chaos.  We are regularly reminded of the rules via parent communications, at MPA meetings and sometimes, by a gentle rap on your car window by someone who is so annoyed by your parking lot transgression that they’ve gotten out of their car to remind you of the rules. 

Truth be told, the vast majority of us abide by the parking lot rules and etiquette. And while we consider those who break the rules (parking in the handicapped spots, blocking other cars from pulling out or past you, jumping the line by squeezing between the two lanes of cars) to be troublesome, annoying, frustrating and in the case of parking in a handicapped spot, law breakers, no one’s life is put in jeopardy when they occur.    

But there is one rule that, at least during this past week, seems to be getting broken more often.  It is beyond frustrating, annoying and troublesome and while probably not illegal, it should be.  You may have seen it happen just a few cars ahead of you while waiting to make the turn into Middlesex:  a car stops, doors fly open, children quickly exit and then dart across the road like tributes making for the forest at the start of the annual Hunger Games. 

We’re all busy.  Some of us leave younger children home while doing the Middlesex drop-off and we’re eager to get back as quickly as possible.  Some are trying to make a train.  Others face yet another drop at DHS.  All of this becomes more stressful when the drop-off line is longer than usual because of extra orchestra, chorus or band practices, midterms or group projects that are due. But all these reasons aside, violating this rule puts children in danger and exposes an unwitting driver headed in the opposite direction to the very real possibility of an accident.

Regardless of the circumstances of our mornings or the schedules of our middle school students, I think we can all agree that having them run across a busy road, scale a hill and then navigate the parking lot—all while carrying an overloaded backpack, is not the best, or safest way, for them to start the day.  So let’s take the next logical step and agree that this is one rule we all should follow. 

Editor's note: This blog post originally was published at 5:58 a.m. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page of Darien Patch.

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Julie April 30, 2012 at 10:34 AM
This could easily be solved by not allowing private cars to deliver children to school in the morning without previously secured permission. We pay for buses to get the kids to school and many of them drive around town half empty. In addition, those cars are wasting gas and adding pollution to our environment.
Susan Vogel April 30, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Good idea, and yes, those would be the benefits of such a rule. Unfortunately, with kids this age there are pre-school activities (such as by audition music groups, projects and needing to see a teacher) that require students to be in earlier than buses can deliver them. Administratively, it would be a nightmare to track, and if everyone else's house is like mine, there are times when my children don't realize they need to go see a teacher for help until they begin their homework and realize they don't fully understand the assignment. This could all be avoided if everyone simply followed the very simple rules that are in place to keep students, parents and other drivers safe on the roads and in the parking lots! IMHO.
Preston Bealle April 30, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I don't have a kid at MMS but I did have three. Dropping them at the curb is not so bad...it keeps another car out of the queue and makes the kids like anyone who walks there. "Scaling" a hill is otherwise known as walking to school. The biggest problem is the kids wanting to get out right at the white door. If the entire curved curb let kids out at once, 20 cars at a time could unload and move out instead of maybe 7. We made this change at Royle and it made a huge difference. It took a parent there(initially it was me) every day to make it stick.
Susan Vogel April 30, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Preston, Thanks for the suggestion on the curb drop-off. For the most part, as I mentioned, rules are followed and system works well. With two lanes for drop-off the process moves relatively quickly and smoothly. I will look into extending the drop-off section however, as it might move things along. Still cannot stomach children being dropped off on the opposite side of the road from the school and then dashing across the street. It is not safe, for either the kids or the driver heading up Hollow Tree Ridge Road for the High School and Dr. Boccanfuso has repeatedly asked parents NOT to drop off on the road. There are rules for a reason, and in this case, its student safety.
Frank N Beans April 30, 2012 at 06:02 PM
This is Darien. The rules don't apply to me.
Noreen Benz April 30, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Great article Susan! I do think the drop-off section could be extended. Parents could pull up to the crosswalk of the inside drop-off lane and all cars queued up after the curve should discharge passengers. Everyone queued along the straightaway on the outside lane should discharge. Drop-off would move more quickly if more students were willing to walk a few extra yards. I am also alarmed by the HTRR drop-offs. Think of the newly-licensed high school students driving up Hollow Tree to DHS. While no driver can speed through that area, a child darting between stopped cars still represents a challenge for a new driver.
Andrea Cragin April 30, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I fully agree Susan. Dropping your child off on the opposite side of the road from the school and, thereby, making them run across early morning traffic is simply selfishly prioritizing your own convenience over your child's safety and well being.
mom in town April 30, 2012 at 10:46 PM
How about setting a better example for the next generation while conserving some gas? Empty buses ramble around Darien daily while we needlessly shuffle children to school. Yes there are some cases where arriving to school early is justified but otherwise children should be taking the provided busing that eats up a large portion of the school budget. We need to stop complaining about avoidable problems.
Karen stamoulis May 01, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Great article Susan! It scares me to death when I see kids getting out of cars on Hollow Tree Ridge. The intersection at Hollow Tree and Middlesex is tricky enough even with the crossing guard. The drop off situation as a whole is a mess, but we need to keep the safety of all the kids the top priority.
Shredder May 01, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Having my kid cross the street is hardly dangerous. You can always find something that is more "safe" but operating within reason is the name of the game. Your argument is as silly as suggesting that parents who do not send their kids to school with helmets are more concerned about their kids looks than their safety.
Jim Cameron May 01, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I know how the Bd of Ed can save beaucoup bucks in the budget... maybe enough to pay for teachers: stop providing school bus service and / or charge parents for being in the daily SUV parade. How about car pooling for our precious kids? Or walking to school (like they'll have to do when they go to DHS)?
Shredder May 01, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Charge per pickup/drop off, tracked with RFID ez pass type thing. Pigovian tax of sorts.
Susan Vogel May 01, 2012 at 07:39 PM
The issue is parent behavior and the need for it to change. There doesn't need to be a fee for drop-off or pick-up, and students who live within a certain distance of the school already walk. What we need is for people to follow the rules that are in place, rules that keep students and drivers alike, safe.
mom in town May 01, 2012 at 07:47 PM
The rules would be easier to follow if the traffic volume was lighter. Believe it or not some parents (even moms) are trying to catch a train or make it to the office and the drop off is a bottleneck. Put the kids on the bus and let them deal. We all know that plenty of those morning drop-offs are simply because Susie woke up late or took too long to eat breakfast. We are enabling the next generation when we should be educating them to the benefits of mass transportation and dealing with the social ritual presented by taking a bus filled with your peers.


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