Safe and Secure Schools
A Safer Dismissal Process, One Pickup at a Time
- By Kristy Love
- September 1st, 2018
PHOTO © MONKEY BUSINESS IMAGES
When I came to Codwell Elementary School, our dismissal process was chaos. It was organized chaos, but it was chaos. Our students were losing instructional time, we had behavioral problems in the hallways, we had security concerns about the procedures in place, and the disorganization of student pickup was a source of friction and aggravation for parents.
Dismissing students and placing them with the correct guardians at the end of the day may seem easy enough to take care of, but each student pickup is a one-to-one transaction. If you have 400 students, that’s 400 one-to-one transactions—and you have to get every single one right every single time, and you have to do it in 20-30 minutes every day.
Here’s how we addressed our issues so that dismissal is no longer the most chaotic part of the school day.
INSTRUCTIONAL TIME & BEHAVIORAL ISSUES
Under the old system, our teachers would just shut down instruction at the end of the day. My 5th-grade teachers were complaining about losing instruction time because we had to start dismissal so early.
But now, with the help of an app called PikMyKid, we don’t start moving our children until 3:30 or even later for the official 3:35 end of the day. Pre-K and kindergarten students may start moving a little earlier, but teachers for most grades are really able to teach right up until the last minute.
That reduced time from the classroom to pickup has also made it easier for teachers to monitor students, because they only need to keep an eye on the 15 students in their classroom instead of 50 trying to get picked up at once.
This shorter dismissal window has reduced behavioral problems, too, because if our students are going to fight, for example, they’re more likely to fight at the end of the day, when they think there’s less supervision. But with the new dismissal process, the hallways are clearer and we have fewer situations.
Student fights weren’t the only security issue improved by our new approach to dismissal. Our old system required us to call out student names over the intercom, which is audible not just to every person waiting for their children, but to everyone within a block of the school who cares to listen.
But now we don’t have to call names over the intercom. The parent or someone they’ve sent to pick up their child gives a teacher a number to put into the system, and it shows up on a screen. No one has access to that screen from outside the building.
We also had issues in the past with people the child knows, but who may not be the appropriate pickup person. Perhaps it’s a father and there’s a custody issue, or maybe it’s someone who recently lived with the child but is no longer entrusted with their care by the parent. We can’t look to the child to make sure that person is an appropriate guardian to send them home with, but with our automated system, we know Dad or anyone else who’s supposed to be there to pick that child up is going to have that child’s number.
BETTER PARENT RELATIONSHIPS
Our parents used to have this idea that we wanted to keep their children all night, that we didn’t want to release them. We just wanted to release them in an organized manner, but still, this was sometimes a battle. The parents were waiting in lines and it was taking forever to get their kids out to them. I love my parents to death, but they are some passionate people. We felt a lot of pressure to start dismissing earlier to ease that frustration.
Now at 3:35 when the bell rings, the parents in the car line are just sitting there. They know that once we start dismissing, it’s going to go fast, that as soon as the line moves they’re gone. Our parents know that when they arrive at the door, their child will be there waiting for them.
Our relationship with parents has actually changed, and we have fewer of those frustrated interactions after school. And that’s also a safety issue, because parents would get so upset with us that it would become a huge distraction. We’d be trying to appease the parent, and then a student might walk by us, and we wouldn’t see them. We don’t have to worry about that now, because it’s so organized.
These days, my teachers run dismissal on their own, which means that, as a principal, I can use dismissal time to talk and meet with parents. You really can’t put a price tag on that peace of mind. Everyone at our school is much less stressed out at the end of the day.
This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of School Planning & Management.
Kristy Love has been principal at Codwell Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District since 2013. She has previously served as dean of students at Woodson K-8 Leadership Academy and as assistant principal at Burbank Middle School.