Less planning and strategy went into trailblazing the Oregon Territory than what is needed to teach parents the execution of a very basic task known as the school drop-off and pickup line. I know this because during a recent two-hour newcomer meeting for kindergarten families, we spent over an hour discussing it.
The science behind dropping off and picking up a child appears to be more extensive than is necessary. It seemed so simple: Drive in a square. But it wasn’t even a square; this route was a line with a small square part that doesn’t even play a pivotal role in the process of dropping off and picking up. The square part of the route surrounds a tree which they’d rather the car line went around instead of through.
The steps for drop-off and pickup were so basic that you could have driven it in reverse, blindfolded, and still successfully finished before anyone in this meeting had a solid grasp of what was going on. There is no way you could not do this unless a sinkhole suddenly opened and you were swallowed whole. The PTA even handed out maps of the route with dotted lines and arrows indicating which way to go. There was a green arrow showing where you pull all the way up (to the bike racks). There was also a red X marked by the foyer doors with the word, “NO,” because you don’t stop there to let your child off. You pull up to the bike racks.
In addition to the maps, the following information was supplied:
– Drop-off begins at 7:45 a.m.
– Pickup ends at 3:20 p.m., or sooner if all children have been picked up.
– Late pickup is 3:25. You can park and pick your child up at the main office.
– Children will be supervised at all times.
– Pull all the way up to the bike racks before letting your child out of the vehicle.
– Do not drop your child off at the foyer.
A veteran mom — who has done three tours of drop-off/pickup duty — spent some time speaking about all the above items again, offering helpful suggestions like, “don’t drop your kid off at the foyer” and “drive all the way up to the bike racks.” The main point and apparently the only thing you really need to know about kindergarten is to pull all the way up to the bike racks. Resist the temptation, fight the urge, to stop at the foyer doors or people will honk at you and email the principal asking her to revoke your license and have your vehicle towed.
Some people asked good questions like, “What’s the best time to avoid the drop-off/pickup congestion?” Others asked questions like, “Can I start to line up for pickup at noon?” Most questions, though, were about the items we already went over. We continued to go back and forth with what was already discussed until the dead horse was beaten so much it had completely disintegrated.
This was not the Battle of Yorktown; no strategy was needed at all. No one’s independence or sovereignty depended on the outcome of this car line. This was an unsophisticated game of follow-the-leader going approximately 4 miles per hour. So believe me when I tell you that the most painful part of this entire meeting was when we formed a line — not unlike the very line we would be driving in two weeks — went outside, and walked the drop-off line course on foot.
We did not stop at the foyer, of course, because it has the red X on the map, and we walked until we were at the bike racks — and people were still confused. I’m not sure how that was possible because there is no angle this thing had not been covered from. At this point, the only items not discussed were the police officer’s name who designed the drop-off/pick-up line route and what the principal had for lunch yesterday.
I stood and looked on in disbelief, silently answering every question to myself with a deserved response and an internal eye roll. This poor horse was about to be resurrected long enough to get beat back down again with ridiculousness like:
What time do I drop off my child? After 7:45 a.m.
What if I’m here early? Pull all the way up to the bike racks.
When am I late? When you arrive and no one is outside.
What time is that? 3:26 or later.
So, when am I late? If it’s Saturday.
What happens if I’m late? By late, do you mean 3:25? Or Saturday?
What happens to my child if I arrive after 3:25? They are released to roam the neighborhood like feral cats.
Where do I pull my car up to? Look at your map.
Can I let my kids off at these doors right here? No. That’s the foyer.
What happens if I stop at the foyer? You will tear the very fabric of time, throwing us all into a time continuum that will spit us all out at 3:25 on Saturday. Just kidding. You’ll jam up the line, and everyone will hate you.
Can I stop and let my child off before I get to the bike rack? Are you at the foyer? Yes. Then, no.
What happens if the car line moves while I’m dropping my kid off? Why are you dropping off your kid before the bike racks?
Can I just walk my child in? Yes. Park in the upper or lower parking lot and walk your child to the teacher.
Can I take them into the foyer? No. You are not allowed inside or near the foyer. Ever.
Where can I park if I want to walk my child inside? I’m sure you’ll park at the foyer.
My eyes glazed over, and I had a headache. We were dropping our children off at school by the bike racks, not launching ourselves into space with a pack of gum and a car cigarette lighter. We had a map. The entire parking lot is smaller than a football field; this was not open-heart surgery. The only way you can mess this up is if you don’t pull all the way up to the end of the line. Then what happens? It’s a minor traffic jam that lasts a minute. Maybe two. That’s the worst-case scenario — or a sudden sinkhole.
If that happens, let’s hope it’s at the bike racks and not the foyer.