Jan. 24—When Mt. Juliet Middle School and West Wilson Middle School began the 2022-23 school year, dismissal and student pick-up weren't issues.
Now, there's a growing safety concern for students as they flee the building at the final bell, darting across traffic on Woodridge Place, Charlie Daniels Parkway, and Mt. Juliet Road to reach their parents.
"We began receiving complaints from businesses, bus drivers and other motorists that children were just all over the place on the roads that surround the Mt. Juliet Middle School campus," Mt. Juliet Police Department Public Information Officer Tyler Chandler said. "Their concern was that parents are not going through the pick up line. They will park at nearby parking lots — at a church, a business ... they've even parked at our police headquarters across the street. The kids, instead of waiting in the pick-up line will just rush out of the school in all different directions to get to their parent quicker."
When Mt. Juliet Police officers watched the pick-up process to get a better grasp of what the problem was, they observed that the students are not crossing at crosswalks. They also saw that parents have stopped in the middle of Mt. Juliet Road, and other parents "slow roll" for their child to get into the car while it was still at moving at 3 to 5 miles per hour.
"I've witnessed many scary moments with children darting across traffic, and this activity simply cannot continue," Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick said in a press release. "School leadership and I all understand that Mt. Juliet Middle School has more students due to the continued construction of West Wilson Middle, which leads to more traffic. However, we must all work together to keep children safe, and the activity we have witnessed lately is far from safe. I hope everyone understands and will cooperate with the school's plan to ensure dismissal is orderly and safe."
While the practice of parking off-site and having their child come to them may save parents 15 minutes, the Mt. Juliet Police Department is attempting to increase its presence during dismissal times to help create a safer environment for children during pick up.
"There's a reason there's pickup lines," Chandler said. "It's because it keeps students safe so that they're not running all over traffic with all the extra traffic that comes with a school zone. Some of the parents that are doing this will tell you that the pick up line is too long and we understand that, but waiting some extra minutes in the pick-up line versus children running everywhere is a better option."
The Mt. Juliet Police Department met with school leadership to discuss how to solve the issue. Beginning on Monday afternoon, law enforcement has increased its presence around the school's campus to limit motorists' stops on the main roadway.
"We're trying to encourage everyone to just use the pick-up line so that children have that safe route to their parent's vehicles," Chandler said. "When school first started this year, it wasn't an issue. Everyone was using the pick-up line, and then, some parents started to park at Sonic. Then, they started using other businesses, and it just grew by word of mouth."
For a safe pick-up process, the Mt. Juliet Police Department recommends abiding by the following guidelines in their press release:
* Having a car rider be picked up in an authorized, safe location that follows the school traffic plan
* Having a bus rider who loads the bus in an authorized, safe, bus-loading zone
* Having a walker who walks to their residence within a safe walking distance from the school using appropriate crosswalks and sidewalks.