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FPS parents vent over gate closing

Farragut Primary School and Knox County Schools plan to close the back gate leading to FPS beginning March 23.

However, FPS principal Julia Craze, in an effort to make sure affected parents within the parental responsibility zone had an opportunity to be heard beforehand, organized a forum with KCS and town of Farragut officials Monday, March 8, at FPS.

KCS School Board representative Thomas Deakins, Alderman Tom Rosseel, KCS chief security officer Steve Griffin, interim Town administrator Gary Palmer and Knox County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ben Harkins joined Craze to ask if “anybody has a really great idea that we have not thought of.

“We want to ask, ‘What are some things you would suggest?’ But it is not to negotiate the closing,” Craze said.

Craze said she feels adamantly that leaving the gate open creates a security risk for the school as well as compromising child safety at the entrance of the gate.

Craze began receiving telephone calls last fall from residents of Village Green saying parents were parking in the street and blocking driveways and refusing to move.

“My response was, of course, ‘Well that is a public street and I don’t have jurisdiction over a public street. Since it is a public street and you are concerned about traffic I suggest you make a call to the Sheriff’s department.’

“But toward the end of January, I started getting calls about children who were just being deposited, not walked. They were just being dropped off. We don’t have middle schoolers, we have babies and you can’t just drop a child off and not walk them to that gate. That is just an accident waiting to happen,” Craze said.

The incident that Craze said finally forced her hand on the issue was a security breach within the school.

“One morning when I was going to do morning announcements, one of my staff members said, ‘Julia, who is that guy? Did you just pass that guy? I didn’t recognize him and he did not have a child with him and he came through the back gate.’

“He didn’t have a kid with him and he had stopped and was looking around. So I started to approach him and ask if I could help him find someone, but he exited out the front door,” Craze said.

“I feel sorry. But when it came to children just being dropped off and left at the gate and security being compromised … I am a little bit old fashioned, but I will tell you, we no longer live in Pleasantville in this world.

“And June Cleaver does not live here anymore,” she added.

Immediately following the incident with the unidentified man, Craze contacted Griffin to come out and investigate the problem of the gate.

Griffin allowed his report to be read aloud for the parents.

The report stated that on Thursday, Feb. 12, and Friday, Feb. 13, members of KCS security office evaluated the drop-off procedure at the back gate.

“Parking on Old Colony Road is an accident waiting to happen with cars parking on both sides of the road, students and parents crossing the street with local traffic both entering and exiting the subdivision. On Thursday, I observed 18 children enter the school with no parental supervision and 15 on Friday.”

Griffin agreed that KCS has no control over the traffic, and based on his surveillance of the gate recommended its closure.

Craze’s main concern with the closing of the gate is that children within the parental responsibility zone who walk to school will be forced to walk onto Campbell Station Road to access the front entrance to the building.

Rosseel stepped forward and offered to put an item on the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen agenda to address traffic concerns and the possibility of adding a temporary mulch walkway off Campbell Station by trimming some of the trees.

“We have looked at it, and Mr. [Gary] Palmer, our interim town administrator has indicated there is about 10 feet right-of-way. What I am going to propose to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is that we trim those trees back to a height of about eight feet and put in a mulch walkway.”

The majority of the parents present rallied to keep the gate open, asking if they might practice “parental pressure” to urge those parents who are causing the problem to stop, even going as far as to suggest they put it before the Village Green Homeowner’s Association.

Griffin said he would not recommend any solution that put one parent into a confrontational scenario with another.

It also was suggested that since the main problem with traffic seems to be in the morning, that the gate be left open in the afternoon, when school officials moderate the pick-up procedure.

Griffin and Craze agreed they would continue their dialog before the March 23 close date, but denied the parents another meeting opportunity with school officials.

“You will just be notified of our decision,” Craze said.


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