Here’s a puzzle for you: double the number of parents driving to the school at the same time, but make sure kids all stay far apart. Oh, and keep the students away from each other in the hall. Oh, and make it take less than three hours to get them all to the right cars. One of the issues causing a logistical nightmare for administrators right now is arrival and dismissal during COVID-19. Here’s how some schools are changing their plans to adapt to the times.
There’s an app for that
Carlos Barrera, a high school administrator in Del Rio, TX, says the concerns are easy to name, but there isn’t a “perfect or good solution.” His focus is trying to get kids safely home without having them get into groups. One of these potential solutions is to integrate an app into pick up and drop off procedures.
ZoomX is one of the apps admins are considering and implementing across the country. Tim Houts created ZoomX after he spent 15 minutes in the pickup carline for his daughter and then an additional ten minutes more in the pickup zone waiting for them to call her out from the school. “I thought, ‘There has to be a better way.’”
His app, launched last year, uses GPS and geofence technology to automatically update schools when a student’s ride is en route, approaching, has arrived, or has picked up. Since then, “hundreds of schools” have adopted the app for quick and socially distanced arrival and dismissal procedures. Competitors to ZoomX include Kinderlime (Procare), SchoolPass, and Pikmykid. Admins are also considering Concierge Pad, Driveline, and Safe Dismissal, which are all programs that help organize procedures for a quicker and easier dismissal process.
Have kids wait in classrooms
Nikki Manning, a principal of a PreK-2 building in Rogersville, TN, says their main change this year will be holding students in classrooms instead of the hall and calling them down directly from there. Some time will be added as students have further to walk. “Each car has a tag and is read when they enter the campus. Kids’ names and pictures are flashed on a TV screen where they wait. This year it will pop up on a staff member’s phone and be called down by a walkie talkie,” she explained.
Promote carpooling to ease congestion
As bussing concerns increase with COVID cases spreading, many parents plan to transport their own child to school. One pediatrician, Dr. Nicole Baldwin, explains in her popular video about back to school tips, that the bus can be a recipe for disaster, and recommends carpooling with other parents where possible. This tip would not only alleviate busing issues, but would also prevent an influx of cars during arrival and dismissal.
Utilize more doors and buildings
2020 is all about spreading out. Some schools are using every door in their school as a way in and out of the building to promote social distancing. In the past, just two enter and exit options allowed staff to better monitor behavior, but now spreading out seems the safest. Using more doors presents an additional problem of increasing the number of adults supervising during arrival and dismissal, which can be a struggle as staffing issues due to COVID have already increased.
Staggered arrival and dismissal times
For some schools, the best option is to simply not allow everyone to come at once. In our Principal Life group on Facebook , members are sharing they are planning a staggered exit in ten-minute increments by grade level, differentiated by whether a family is picking up one child or multiple, who is riding the bus, and who is leaving to an after school care program. Another says they are utilizing the police to help plan a safe exit, which can be a great resource especially if you have concerns about blocking traffic for your school. Other admins are considering a staggered dismissal in 20-minute increments due to the number of students in their schools, accounting for how long it would really take to get large groups of students to the right places.
What is your school’s plan for arrival and dismissal during COVID-19? Come and share in our Principal Life group on Facebook.
Plus, how schools are planning for a virtual back-to-school night.