Getting students home safe

Mar. 18—The Mt. Juliet Police Department and Mt. Juliet High School administration are coming together to address potentially unsafe conditions created by drivers not following dismissal protocol.

Law enforcement says that the issue at MJHS has gotten progressively worse throughout the school year. Complaints from the community include parking in nearby neighborhoods, students parking at nearby businesses to avoid parking on campus, and increased pedestrian traffic that in turn increases congestion in the area.

"The complaints we receive of careless driving are likely related to new drivers not understanding the true consequences of driving carelessly," Mt. Juliet Police Department Public Information Officer Tyler Chandler said. "We've also received reports that non-license drivers are parking off campus so they can drive to school. To obtain a parking pass on campus, the student has to provide a valid drivers license. So, parking off campus is a way to circumvent the school's rule and law."

Stonehollow, Jackson Hills, and Tuscan Gardens are among the neighborhoods affected, as well as the the Learning Academy. The Mt. Juliet Police Department's hope in increasing its presence around dismissal time will cause a decrease in unsafe driving.

"Our presence does not necessarily alleviate the traffic," Chandler said. "The goal of our presence is to reduce unlawful activity and for roads to remain clear."

In addition to the the department's efforts, MJHS administration is also working to alleviate the issue.

"Emails have been sent to students and parents detailing the plan for morning drop-off and afternoon pickup," MJHS Principal Beverly Sharpe said. "There are multiple crossing guards in the morning and afternoon, along with MJHS admin, who are outside directing traffic and monitoring students who ride buses. Minor adjustments have been made throughout the school year. Over 2,000 students (from MJHS and West Wilson Middle School eighth-graders) come on our campus every day, and we do our best to make arrival/dismissal run as smoothly as possible."

The way to do that, Sharpe says, is for parents and students to follow the school's traffic plan.

"Follow instructions from crossing guards," Sharpe said. "Do not pick up students in neighborhoods. Do not pick up students on Golden Bear Gateway, and understand (that) we are doing our best to get students on and off campus as safely and efficiently as possible."

Increased pedestrian traffic on Golden Bear Gateway is a safety concern for administrators.

"The main concern is students getting picked up on Golden Bear Gateway and students walking to parents parked in neighborhoods by the MJHS campus," Sharpe said. "We also have many students who walk home to nearby neighborhoods. Drivers need to be alert and always watch for pedestrians."

To follow the school's dismissal plan, motorists can pick up students in an authorized location that follows the school guidelines. Students should only load on to buses in an authorized loading zone. Student drivers should park in a designated parking space on campus.

"In areas that have pedestrian traffic, the plans get off course, and it causes congestion," Wilson County School District Public Information Officer Bart Barker said. "It causes some safety problems."