Red Bay Primary is strictly enforcing a mandatory pick-up time of no later than 4.40pm for students.
Principal Vickie Frederick is determined to make parents step up and take responsibility.
‘After a full day at school, it is in a child’s best interest to be collected promptly from school so that they can rest, eat, do homework and safely play and interact with their families in their home environment,’ she said.
While school is dismissed at 3pm, some children involved in after-school activities such as extra help and sports teams, which are supervised by teachers on a voluntary basis, are finished at 4pm.
Some staff members are also assigned to outdoor duty to monitor children waiting for pick-up, but only until 4.30pm.
Accordingly, Deputy Principal Allison Wallace said parents are expected to pick up the 3pm leavers punctually at three, while 4pm finishers are expected to be off the grounds by 430pm.
But that has not been the case for some unfortunate students.
‘We have been noticing that a number of parents have been consistently negligent in picking up their children on time, which is leading to a number of problems, so we are doing something about it,’ said Ms Wallace.
‘It seems these parents are taking advantage of our presence here and using the school grounds as an unofficial babysitting service, in full knowledge that classes end at 3pm,’ she said.
After hours, a number of teachers may be present at the school, but they are no longer responsible for monitoring the children waiting to be picked up once classes are done for the day and are only keeping an eye out for them out of personal duty.
‘It’s disgraceful that parents are leaving their young children at the school for hours,’ said Ms Wallace. Some children have not been picked up until as late as 7pm.
‘The kids that wait around range from four to 12 years old and a number of them have been caught vandalizing property, engaging in bullying and fights and other acts that are a direct result of their being unsupervised,’ she said.
A further concern, Ms Wallace says, is that substandard security on the site puts children at further risk as comings and goings by the public are difficult to control.
She’s had her own car broken into while marking papers in her office in December.
‘We hope that parents really appreciate that we are interested in the safety of their children and we are looking for their cooperation,’ she said.
From now on, one half of the school gate will be shut at 4.30pm and monitored by the school’s Community Officer, who will begin taking the names of parents arriving late and making a record of habitual offenders.
‘We appreciate that parents may be working, but we are working too,’ said Ms Wallace. ‘It is their responsibility as parents to make arrangements to have their kids picked up when school is done.’
At 3.40pm Monday, around 60 of the three o’clock leavers were still waiting to be picked up, although Mrs. Walker remarked that several notorious latecomers had shown up already.
At 5pm, Mrs. Wallace said, eight students were still awaiting pickup.
Despite the previous notification parents had received on the matter both via notices sent home with their children and at school meetings, the last child, a Year One student, was not picked up until 5.35pm after the officer had called the parent twice.
Parents driving in after 4:30 were stopped by the Community Officer who explained they were contravening the pick-up policy.
Despite these few hitches, it’s an encouraging start, said Mrs. Wallace.
‘We’re making progress. You can see that most parents have gotten the message.’
While parents who don’t comply will be breaking school pick-up rules, there are further consequences for repeat offenders: they will be referred to Social Services for child neglect.