A planning team has come up with a way to improve the way students are picked up and dropped off at Discovery Middle School.
The team included Alexandria Public Schools staff, city and county street and highway officials, as well as a local engineering firm.
Student drop-off has been located in the front of the building since Discovery opened. With the increased activity in the front lot over the last few years, it has created some safety issues and increased congestion, in both entering the parking lot and exiting onto McKay Avenue, according to Principal Matthew Aker, who wrote a letter to District 206 parents.
To resolve the traffic flow and safety challenges, students riding the bus will get dropped off in the front of Discovery and student drop-off will be in the back of the building.
It’s anticipated the changes will allow vehicles to exit off of McKay Avenue in a more timely manner. Entrance onto McKay Avenue should be more manageable with significantly more distance between the entrance point (southernmost point) and the exit point (northernmost point) for drop-off.
To assist with this transition, additional staff will be assigned to key locations.
Here are some other highlights of the plan:
Morning drop-off: Starting for the 2021-2022 school year, students will be dropped off behind Discovery in the back lot. Parents/guardians dropping off students will use the south entrance to pull behind Discovery. This will be a single-lane, one-way roadway through to the north end of the building.
After school pick-up: Student pick-up after school will also be behind Discovery. Parents/guardians/others will use the south entrance for pick-up. Parents will progress through the single-lane, one-way to the north exit to enter McKay avenue.
Activities pick-up: Student pick-up for after school activities will also be behind Discovery, using the same single-lane, one-way road.
Doors to enter: The northernmost doors (#20, #21, #22) in the back of the building will be open for students until 8:30 a.m. Door #20 is near the elevator access to the upper level of Discovery.
Bypass lane: There will be a bypass lane (left lane) running parallel to the drop-off/pick-up lane behind Discovery, in the back parking lot. Please use caution and minimize speed while using this lane to bypass others dropping off students.
Crosswalks: Pedestrian crosswalks across lanes will need to be observed to allow students and staff to safely cross lanes.
Buses only (a.m. and p.m.: The front lot will be “buses only” from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and from 3 to 3:30 p.m.
60-minute limited visitor parking: Designated visitor parking spaces are marked at the east side of the front parking lot, allocated for visitors throughout the school day, including families who may have school meetings scheduled prior to 8:30 a.m. or after school at 3:05 p.m. Handicapped parking may be utilized at any point in the day with a handicapped parking permit.
After 8:30 a.m.: Parents may drop off students arriving late or drop off items in the main office. Students can also be picked up at the front of the building for appointments or when in the nurse’s office, prior to 3 p.m.
Event and activity parking will still be located in the front parking. Parking will not be available until after 3:30 p.m. Parking in the back of the building will not be available to the public until after 3:30 p.m. as well, as this is a “staff only” parking lot. If it is an activity or event when school is not in session (summer, weekends, no school day, etc.), spectators may use the front lot at all times of the day.
Aker included the following points to make pick-up and drop-off as safe and efficient as possible:
Be patient as the districts and parents work through this significant change at Discovery.
Pull as far forward as possible to drop-off/pick-up.
Minimize the amount of time “at the curb” (especially at morning drop-off).
Plan for adequate time so you don’t feel rushed.
There will be a bypass lane to pull out and around other vehicles dropping off students. Use this lane with caution and minimize speed to best ensure safety of everyone.
Staff parking will be located in the back parking lot (another change), so be aware of crosswalks in the drop-off area and yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
“Through many stakeholders feedback and ideas, we do believe this will increase student safety, and create a better family experience for pick-up and drop-off,” Aker said. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as we learn new processes, locations, and expectations. Together, we can make everyone's experience better, in both the morning and afternoon.”