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A walk down the hall: Parents take issue with LES procedures

October 27, 2010
LANCASTER — A new procedure this year limiting parents from walking kindergarten through second grade students to class before school at Lancaster Elementary has some parents scratching their heads.

Last year there were no in-house restrictions on parents walking K-2 students from the entrance to their class at LES, but after the first week of school this year there appeared to be. On Sept. 10 there was a letter sent to parents of primary grade students that referenced school safety and suggested that a parent walking their child to class was no longer permitted.

The letter read, "To assure a safe school environment, please be advised that beginning on Monday, Sept. 13, only authorized school personnel will be allowed in the hallways before and after school. Parents or guardians who have a pre-arranged meeting with a teacher may sign-in and obtain a visitors pass from the office to wear while in the school before and after school."

A number of concerned parents found the letter to be a pulled drawbridge keeping them from naturally interacting with the school.

"We parents are a safety risk to the school?" said Emily Cowan. "We were given the impression that we were the danger. I'm grieving for my lack of contact in the school."

The wing for primary students is the farthest from the entrance. The route to that wing cuts through a hallway regularly filled with older students. The school does, however, provide personnel to walk K-2 students to class before 7:45 a.m., noted the letter.

"What we're seeking to do is have our hallways accessible for our students and staff," said LES Principal Pat Mclean. "When parents want to walk in it's generally time when school is starting and frequently parents want to talk to teachers. What we've been finding is parents that walked students to class wanted a minute or two with teachers."

Mrs. Mclean also said she felt the procedure was the same in the rest of the district and that it would simply take time getting used to.

"I'm a friend to the school and I'm an educator and I want a relationship with my daughter's school," said Tina Marceau who is also a teacher at Profile.

Starting Sept. 16, Mrs. Marceau was on a mission to find reason in the new procedure and it wasn't until Oct. 14 that she was able to have a phone conversation with Superintendent Harry Fensom on the issue.

"It was a three minute conversation...he said if we wanted to go into the building before or after school we need a name tag and to sign in. I said that was not the policy that Mclean communicated."

As per the letter Mrs. Marceau was under the impression that she wasn't allowed to enter the building unless she had a prearranged meeting.

"Things have been resolved," said Superintendent Fensom. "If they want to come in and get a pass we prefer it's before or after school and they have to let the teacher know they are coming to the class."

According to Ms. Mclean, however, there is more of a screening process involved. A parent is allowed to walk their kid to class before school once in a while following a sign in, name tag and giving the teacher a head's up, if there is a need for it she said. But if parents want to walk their children to class everyday they need to receive her permission.

"My hope is to see something in writing on what exactly the policy is," said Angela Kennison who has two kids, one in first grade and the other a seventh grader at LES.

"From my perspective it's not a 'policy' in the sense its been sent to the school board, said Fensom. "We've had a discussion about the need to have a safe secure environment...and I think our procedures are appropriate."

Mrs. Marceau currently has no roadblocks walking her daughter to class everyday, but the matter still doesn't sit well with her.

"Now I feel like I have permission to go down the hall because I complained and it should be a right all parents have," she said.

On asking Superintendent Fensom if parents were allowed to walk their children to class everyday if they wanted to he said, "I imagine they could, but I don't imagine it is a productive thing as student independence is certainly something we try to promote.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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