Three Days of Parent Drop-Off for Back-to-School

I spent three mornings in the last week volunteering to wear a yellow vest and hold a fluorescent poster board, just down the street from my local elementary school. The sign said “SLOW You’re Almost There,” and it was addressed to parents who were driving their children to school.

As they approached the curve where I stood, some appeared to be going the 20 mph speed limit, but others clearly were not. Behind me, the cars stacked up at the drop-off curb or just before it, where they have to stop for the adult crossing guard who holds out his flag so kids (many with parents) can cross from the sidewalk across the street to the school. (There is no sidewalk on the school-side of the street.)

The school buses drop off children on the other side of the building, and quite a number of children also walk to school.

The first two days, I saw only two somewhat unsafe moments, both involving a driver who didn’t want to wait when the queue of cars started to stack up.

The first was a lone male driver in a BMW convertible (top down) who wasn’t dropping off a child. As he approached the school, he came up behind two parent-driven cars waiting for the crossing guard. The BMW driver started to pull around the waiting cars, I assume he thought they were only waiting in the street because the drop-off lane was too full. He stopped quickly once he saw the crossing guard, and was never close to the guard or the families who were crossing the street.

The second unsafe moment was more complicated. Most of the parent drivers are approaching from a curving street before they reach the straightaway where the school is located, but a few come down from a perpendicular side street right at the curve.

Most of the parents in cars queue up on the main street in the foreground, but a smaller number came from the intersecting street, and that’s what made things complicated. I was standing at the spot where this photo was taken from.

That day, a secondary queue of about five cars had developed on the side street at the same time that there was a long queue on the main street. Just as the main queue started to clear up, I realized the driver at the front of the short side queue had gotten out of his car — I think he was letting his kids out to walk to the building — when one of the drivers behind him pulled out to go around, down to the main street and into the main queue. It was jerk behavior, and dangerous. I don’t know if it was another parent driver or not.

On the third day, Monday, it was the first day of kindergarten, so there were more new parent drivers and things got a little bit wilder with more neophytes. That day I meant to count the number of cars, but I forgot. There were definitely more, but it didn’t seem that much worse, numerically.

Once again, though, there was an incident with a driver who tried to pass the main queue of cars near the side intersection. This time, I was already directing traffic there and stopped that impatient driver by standing in the street. I hope no one heard me mutter aloud, “Don’t be an a**####.”

Now I’m done with my volunteer duties and I hope the parent drivers have learned the pattern and that they are behaving themselves. I left behind a “20 Is Plenty” sign at the curve, just about where I was standing each morning.

Pat Thompson

About Pat Thompson

Pat Thompson is cochair of the St. Anthony Park Community Council's Transportation Committee, a member of Transition Town - All St. Anthony Park, and a gardener in public and private places. Last year, she ate hostas in spring and planted two chestnut trees in fall. She is a member of the streets.mn Climate Committee.

3 thoughts on “Three Days of Parent Drop-Off for Back-to-School

  1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Thanks for sharing this Pat. This kind of thing literally happens every day! I watched all the Central H.S. kids leave school today and it was so inspiring, so many kids on foot and on bikes. But then there are drivers who are revving around them and it’s amazing more of our children don’t get hurt.

  2. Paul Nelson

    Thank you, Pat Thompson. The photo above appears to be in a residential area and the space for autos in that street is huge

    Very interesting, Bill. I was a student at Central HS in 1970-71. In a conversation about the bicycle with a male classmate, he stated: There are just two people who bike here to school, and they both are goons” – not an exact quote, but close. I talked to one of the guys who biked, and he told me his parents required him to work, and it was a practical necessity for him to bike. Yes, there were just two people who biked to Central at that time.

  3. Pat ThompsonPat Thompson Post author

    I was thinking the same thing about the intersection, Paul – it’s huge, despite the fact that it appears the cross-street entry was reduced in size, as evidenced by the shape of the large boulevard planted spaces on the left and right (probably in the late 1990s when the streets were rebuilt in the neighborhood). There’s a bit of distortion from my phone’s lens, but the street in the foreground is definitely wider than “needed”… two driving lane widths, two parking lane widths.

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