617 Bobcats!

That’s right. As of yesterday we have  617 Bobcats at Ben-Hem. Every day, hundreds of excited, energized learners pour in and out of our doors. The excitement, curiosity, and innocent humor of 617 Bobcats are the reason that I get up and come to Ben-Hem with a smile on my face. They are an amazing bunch of kids and their education is my first priority. When I think about their learning, safety and security is my first consideration.

Maze025x025Length05SpectrumNarrowPathThere are thousands of details, processes, procedures, and policies that go into creating a safe and secure environment that is conducive to learning at the high levels we expect. While it is neither prudent or feasible to elaborate on every detail, I want to share a few thoughts about dismissal time. As a parent I know that ushering 2 or 3 kids out the door can be a challenge. As a principal, the logistical complexities of getting 617 children out of the building safely and on the proper route home are daunting.

Over the years we have developed and refined a system that makes sure our students know where they are going and get there safely every day. While there is a great deal that goes on inside of the building to ensure this outcome, parents and families play an important role as well. The first and most important part that Ben-Hem families play is providing us with dismissal plans for their children. This is critical as the accurate information you provide allows us to build the many different dismissal routines that we have in place.

Parents and families play an important role in the dismissal process. Making sure we know the dismissal plans of children, coming to school on time, being at the bust stop to name a few. The place where families most often complicate the dismissal process is when dismissal plans are changed. There are two basic types of dismissal change, advanced notice and last minute. The difficulty and problems come with last minute dismissal changes. When families call the office after 2:15, we consider this a last minute dismissal change. The problem this creates is one of student safety.

blue-bird-school-bus-02When 2:15 hits, teachers are busy getting kids packed up and ready to go home. The office is busy fielding phone calls, directing visitors, and managing central operations. All other staff are moving to their positions for the dismissal. The bottom line is that after 2:15 the school is a machine in motion, all systems are preparing to move 617 Bobcats from their classrooms to their homes safely and without error. When we receive a call after 2:15 to change an existing dismissal plan, the energy it takes to execute that request draws attention and energy from our primary objective. Once change poses minimal safety issues, the real problem is that we often receive over 20 calls requesting changes in dismissal after 2:15. This creates a major safety issue that places undue stress on faculty, staff, and students.

Often when I discuss this matter with families they remind me that it is just one change. While I completely understand the rationale, I also remind families that many, many families think the exact same thing and, therefore, the requests for last minute changes of dismissal pile up fast. I certainly understand that life happens. Kids get sick, cars break down, and plans don’t always work out the way we expected. The world is not a black and white place, it’s full of gray and gray complicates the best laid plans and intentions. I am not asking you to make superhuman efforts to avoid last minute changes of dismissal. I am merely asking that you consider alternatives before making the request at the last minute.

Advanced Notice (Prior to 2:15 on the day of change)

  • Notify your child’s teacher in writing of the change of dismissal. Be specific. To whom is your child to be dismissed and on what days/dates. 

Last Minute (After 2:15 on the day of change)

  • If it is unavoidable, contact the main office directly and provide specific details.
  • The office will take your information and develop a dismissal plan that ensures the safety of your child.
  • If you are sending another adult to pick up your child, please let them know that they will need to provide photo identification to the office.

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