Newport News middle school reinvents pick-up, drop-off to alleviate congestion

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — We’re following up on traffic troubles at schools after students returned to the classroom for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to stay home.

We received reports of traffic snarling school parking lots and roads surrounding schools. The situation got so hectic for one school in Newport News, they reinvented the way they handle student pick-up and drop-off. 

If you commute on Warwick Boulevard in Newport News near Gildersleeve Middle School, you may remember traffic snarling Warwick around pick-up and drop-off time. Not anymore. School officials have come up with a solution they say is working. 

“Of course with COVID, more parents wanted to drop their students off and pick their students up from school to avoid the bus rides. That created almost 250 parents out of a school of just over 1,100,” said Janelle Spitz, principal of Gildersleeve Middle School.

The increased volume at Gildersleeve Middle School around pick-up and drop-off time caused traffic to back up onto Warwick Boulevard. Then, the dominos started to fall. 

“It was causing a backup with teachers arriving on time. With parents being able to efficiently drop off their students. It pushed back all the runs from the elementary schools after us,” Spitz said.

School staff put their heads together to reinvent a new way to handle student pick-up and drop-off.

“We decided that we would stage parents here in the parking lot at Todd Stadium because it’s very open. There’s a lot of space to do so. Transportation calculated how many cars we would be able to get here and then our staff comes down in the afternoon and allow parents to pull out 15 cars at a time which prevents the backup down Minton. It prevents the fire station from being backed up as well,” Spitz said. 

We spoke with a parent in line waiting for her child who says she doesn’t miss the old setup. 

“It was absolutely terrible,” said parent Kristie Shaw, referring to the original pick-up and drop-off set up. “We would have to get here around 1:30 to 1:45 to even get on the road here on Minton Road to pick up our child and they get out at school at 2:55. It’s very easy flowing. It takes about maybe five minutes to go around the circle and pick up our child.” 

WAVY spoke with another parent off-camera who said they weren’t the biggest fan of the new setup, adding they feel like they need to get to the staging area early. 

10 On Your Side asked school officials if they plan to continue this setup. They said they will keep their eye on the number of parents in the staging area to see if they’ll do this again next year. 

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