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Tips From a Principal: How to Master the (Dreaded) School Car Line

"It takes a good few weeks to get the routine down," one school official says.
Credit: Richard Shiro/Gannett

If you have kids in school, you’ve probably witnessed it. The cars that circle the block. The parents who are always “in a hurry,” “running late” or just “dropping off their kids really quick.”

Every morning and afternoon, parents who opt to drive their kids to and from school go through the car-line ritual and hope they survive.

To make the ordeal less stressful, we’ve asked Greenville County Schools for some tips that will help you navigate drop-off and pick-up like an expert.

Here’s what Nicky Andrews, principal at Greenville Middle School, suggests:

  • Don’t cut. We didn’t like it in elementary school and as adults, we still don’t like it
  • Pull all the way forward and let out where your car stops. A few parents want to let their student out at the front door, and it prevents the line from moving as quickly as it could
  • No parking in the line. Stick to the parking lot if you need to come into the school
  • Put phones away to minimize distraction
  • Let out in designated areas. We’ve had a few parents try to let out on the road; read the signs as you could be ticketed

Above all, Andrews said parents should try to be patient and polite.

“It takes a good few weeks to get the routine down," she said. "After the first to second week, many students begin riding buses or car pooling, which helps dwindle the car line.”

More: Simple tips to take the struggle out of getting your child up for school

While each school has a proscribed enter and exit system, all elementary school students in the district are dismissed using an app called SaS, or Student Accountability System. The app was introduced to principals several years ago to make car lines safer and more efficient, according to Beth Brotherton, communications director for Greenville County Schools.

When parents pull up, their car tag number is entered into the app, and the information is transmitted to electronic bulletin boards inside the classroom, Brotherton said. Students are dismissed when their name and tag number appear on the screen.

Bart Cumalander, a parent at Sara Collins Elementary, said getting there early is key.

"Pay attention and have your tag number out on the dash," he said.

The school's principal, Melissa Burns, also tells parents to allow a little more time for the car line during that first week of school.

"Definitely adhere to the school speed zones," she added. "I've seen the police write ticket after ticket."

Also, timing is everything for parents picking up kids at different schools, said Meredith Glenn, PTA president at Sara Collins.

"There's a little bit more finesse involved," she said. "You want to make sure to have something for your other children to do."

Snacks help in that regard.

But if waiting in line really isn’t your thing, there's always the nuclear option: Win the school raffle. Many schools host annual fundraisers where they raffle off the first car line spot, and the space — no surprise — is one of the most coveted prizes.

This is a part of an ongoing series of stories leading up to the first day of classes. Follow online at GreenvilleNews.com on Monday, Aug. 20, for coverage of the first day.

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