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Walking still an option at FPS

Pictured are Jill Schaefer and daughter Payton Thornton, 7, who walk to school every day.- Dan Barile/farragutpress
Walking to school at Farragut Primary School is a privilege that isn’t going anywhere.

In a letter to parents from FPS principal Emily Lenn and assistant principal Susan Dunlap, some parents were left with the impression that walking to school with their children was soon to be eliminated from their daily routine.

“No, that’s not true,” Lenn asserted in a telephone interview with the farragutpress.

Lenn said the letter didn’t address walkers since that aspect of the school day wasn’t an issue in the security study conducted by Knox County Schools Security Department in early September.

KCSSD Chief Steve Griffin said the security study was aimed at looking at in-school traffic in the mornings and afternoons, the most vulnerable times for safety, not walkers.

“Two days in a row, the third week of school,” Griffin said, “I observed the morning drop. We had over a hundred kids walked into the building by hand, not only walked into the lobby of the building, but also walked down into the classroom area. That’s not a very good safety practice.”

Griffin said the two most vulnerable times of a day for a school are opening and closing.

“That’s where we invite the public onto our campus, to bring their children and pick their children up.”

He added that this “left us wide open at Farragut Primary, this practice left us wide open for any adult, whether it be a non-custodial parent looking to snatch a kid, or a pedophile looking to snatch a kid, to basically wander the halls for a 15- to 20-minute period of time unchallenged.”

Griffin said that scared him to death.

“Combined with the chaos in the parking lot every morning with these people trying to find a place to park so they can walk their kids in, I observed near misses ... I observed several vehicle versus vehicle near misses and several pedestrian near misses,” Griffin said.

Griffin, a Knoxville Police Department veteran of 11 years, has spent the past 15 years with the Knox County Schools system and added that though “the parking lot problem bothered me, the inside problem scared me to death.

“Kidnapping for ransom in this country is on the decrease; non-custodial parent kidnapping is on the increase.”

Griffin said the plan is to eliminate adult traffic in the building during the opening and closing periods of the day, and that though the letter said: “Beginning Jan. 6, students should either ride the bus or be dropped off in the car circle,” it was never any intention for walking children to school to be eliminated.

Lenn concurred.

The letter is “confusing,” she said. “(Parents) can still walk their children to school. They can call me if they need to discuss walking.”

Lenn said the walkers gate on Grammar Lane would remain open in the mornings and that parents could still walk their children through the gate to the staff member at the door of the school.

Lenn said walking children to the building in the morning would remain a privilege because “in the morning it will be dark. In the afternoon, the parents can wait at the walkers gate because it will be daylight” and children will be able to see their parents and parents will be able to see their children.

Griffin said, “The bottom line is to keep all the kids safer.”

So, changes are in store to eliminate in school adult traffic, but not walkers privileges.

“Most people are under the misunderstanding that you have a right to be on that campus,” Griffin said. “You can be there, but state law and school board policy designate all school campus’ as ‘controlled access.’ You must check in and get permission to be there.

“What we’re trying to do is ensure that everyone is safe in the parking lot and inside the building,” he said.

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