No more ‘kiss and duck’
New Howbert morning drop-off gaining kudos

       There's an unwritten rule - Deb Hawes calls it “Principals 101” - that the new head of a school shouldn't make big changes right away.

Crossing guard Christy Gidley helps a Howbert student across the street while just above the crosswalk cars pull into the parking-space area that's marked as a "kiss-and-go" drive-through before school every morning.
Westside Pioneer photo

       But the first-year principal at Howbert Elementary just couldn't help herself after staff members told her about the increasingly dangerous 7:45-to-8-a.m. drop-off situation the school had been facing in recent years. Cars would drive into and back out of the school's angled parking spaces along 31st Street while others, sometimes waiting their turn in the traffic lane, would cause gridlock down the street.
       “This was a student safety issue,” Hawes said of what she'd heard. “People were parking and sitting and people double-parking behind them, so it was pretty crazy.”
       Plus, she had an idea, which staff helped her refine before the first day of school. With parking not needed so much in the morning, why not transform the 31st Street spaces above the crosswalk into a drive-through “kiss-and-go”? No construction would be needed, just some lined-up cones, a sign at the start of the drive-through, a little timing cooperation from the crossing guard and a staffer at the curb to help kids leave cars efficiently with their gear.
       The idea passed muster with District 11 and City Traffic officials, then went into effect on the first day of school. And, so far, it appears the Hawes Plan is getting an “A” from parents.
       “It's a small area with a couple hundred kids, which makes it interesting,” said parent Mike Northern, who has a daughter in the third grade. He congratulated the school for “trying to organize the traffic issues so it's easier to drop kids off.”
       “The traffic flow is a lot better than it was,” commented Rich Lewis, whose son is a fifth-grader. “It's a big improvement. And I like it that there are people to help kids get their things out.”
       “It makes the situation a lot safer, with all the cars driving forward,” said Jessica Touchard, who takes her fourth-grader to school daily. “They've done a great job in marking it off, and the crossing guard manages it well.”
       Chris Lehman, a literacy resource teacher who gets assigned to kiss-and-go duty some mornings, also likes the arrangement, even if it means he has to sometimes hold kids' backpacks while they say good-bye to their parental chauffeurs and scramble out to the sidewalk. “It's worked out real well,” he said. Then, musing on how a news article could improve matters still more, he suggested to the Westside Pioneer reporter, “Be sure to tell them [the drivers] to pull through.”
       Hawes said one parent told her, “This was such a simple solution; why wasn't it done a long time ago?” This being her first year, of course, Hawes could give no answer. But on the other hand, she thinks just starting at Howbert might have helped. “Maybe just new eyes looking at an old problem,” she suggested.
       Wonder if that concept is in “Principals 101”?

Westside Pioneer article