Drop-off procedure will stay at NES

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

An aerial photo of the parking lot has been provided to parents. The school is open and willing to hear all suggestions on potential solutions. 

Concerns about the pickup and drop-off procedures at Newcastle Elementary School have been a topic of discussion since COVID-19 threw a wrench in all school procedures. The pandemic kept parents in their cars, which led to long lines backed up on the highway, increased wait times and generated an overall sense of confusion and frustration. 

These issues have continued as Weston County School District No. 1 works with the Wyoming Department of Transportation for a permanent fix to the headache that pickup and drop-off have become. 

During the district’s Aug. 31 board of trustee meeting, several parents addressed the board regarding the situation. The parents were assured by the board and other school officials that their frustrations were being heard and that the district is continuing to look at and work on the situation at the elementary school.

The school’s focus during this time has and will remain the safety of students, Superintendent Brad LaCroix says.

“Parents need to be more involved in the decision making. We need to come to a compromise for safety and the parents involved,” parent Becky Carr said at the meeting. 

According to school officials, the maze-like parking lot design being utilized was instituted at the direction of WYDOT. 

“We have been working on this for a year and nine months. We tried to work with WYDOT. This is the suggestion they made to us before they would consider what we asked for,” trustee Dana Mann-Tavegia said during the meeting. 

In a follow-up email to parents, Principal Brandy Holmes said that the department had suggested using more of the parking lot to help bring traffic off the highway, a suggestion that led to the traffic cone maze in the parking lot. 

“While a separate exit seemed to be the go-to fix, the team determined it would come with a hefty cost and may not fix the problem,” Holmes said in the Lil’ Dogie newsletter. “We also requested a lower speed zone and/or signage on the highway. WYDOT is working on that piece.”

So far, the maze is doing its job, for the most part, she said. 

“We are meeting our time goals with a minimal amount of backup. We will continue to make adjustments as everyone gets used to this new plan, in order to help it be more efficient and safe for everyone,” Holmes said. “Meanwhile, we continue to welcome ideas and input as we strive to keep students safe. Other plans, including the separate exit, are not off the table, but we are giving this option our best efforts.” 

Another suggestion for increasing the safety before and after school was the use of police officers to direct traffic. It was noted that things ran more smoothly when former detective Richard Hillhouse directed traffic. 

Trustee Jason Jenkins said that use of police officers would need to be addressed with the city and/or county and that staffing issues with both departments could affect their ability to help in this situation. 

“Yes, parents like them there, but then parents are pissed because they are not on the other side of town when they are speeding,” Jenkins said. “The county has 4,200 square miles to patrol with one person on duty. It is one of those things; law enforcement is never where they need to be.” 

As the district continues to navigate the ongoing traffic challenges at the elementary school, communication will be key, according to parent Katrina Carr-Tysdal. 

“I think everyone needs to be better about communication. That would go a long way. I do think the parking lot is a huge thing.  …There needs to be more communication with parents,” she said. 

Trustee John Reisland said that the district was open to suggestions on alternative solutions to the maze experiment at the elementary school. 

The parking lot will remain a discussion item on the Weston County School District No. 1 agenda as school officials and parents continue to seek a solution to the turmoil.

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