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Westchase Elementary Ends Classroom Drop-Offs

Many parents at Westchase Elementary School have had a tradition of walking their child to class each morning.

Some, with multiple children, have been doing so since the school opened 20 years ago.

That tradition came to an end in March when administrators initiated a closed campus policy. Under the new policy parents are not allowed on campus unless they are there to volunteer or to have lunch with their child. Campus is completely closed during standardized testing times.

At a meeting to explain the policy Principal Erik Holley said, “We want to encourage parents to be a part of the educational process. We want parents here but we want them to have a purpose.”

Holley said that he had been told for years that access to campus needed to be restricted. Assistant Principal Elise Suarez echoed Holley’s sentiments that the school needs parent volunteers and appreciates them and that the new policy was due to security reasons. She also said there had been instances of parents staying in their child’s classroom during the morning and preventing instruction from starting on time.

Several teachers spoke in favor of the new policy. Second grade teacher Mia Freeman, who has been at Westchase since it opened said, “I hope parents are hearing that we love and need parents. We’re not trying to alienate or push you away. We’re trying to implement safety measures for the safety of your child.”

Comparing the change to shifts in airport security policies, Freeman reminded the crowd that at one time anyone was able to walk into the airport and up to any gate without a ticket and without going through security.

Some parents at the meeting questioned the logic of the decision. Pointing out that only about 10 percent of parents come on to campus in the morning now, they asked why, instead of banning everyone, did the school not just tighten up on the sign-in policy in the morning and have parents sign in electronically with their driver’s license the same way they do throughout the day.

“My daughter has special needs,” said Greens resident Bob Phifer. “The change will affect her tremendously. I walk her to class and am in and out of the school in seven minutes. If you have parents who are staying in the classroom, punish them not everyone else. Can’t the teacher ask them to leave?” Phifer added, “To do a broad swipe and say everything has to be done the same way for everyone has been the downfall of education. You are taking away parents’ ability to decide what is best for their child.”

Another parent said, “I work at night and don’t have a lot of time with my daughter. Walking her to her classroom means so much to her. It has improved her behavior and made a difference in her attitude.”

Several parents in the audience, however, said they supported the change, “I have a child with autism,” said Fords resident Elizabeth Stoddard. “You can add to your child’s IEP what their special needs are. I don’t feel like it is worth (walking) one child (to class) for another to get hurt.”

By Marcy Sanford

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