Parents Begin Arriving in Car Loops Two Hours Before School’s Out

Noah Techoueyres, Staff Writer

It’s 4:30 a.m. Craig Casler is at Florida Intitute of Technology, unloading trucks for the cafeteria. Nine hours later and countless trucks unloaded, he’s on his way to West Shore to pick up his grandson, eighth-grader Maddox Casler. It’s now 2 p.m. Craig’s sitting in his 2011 white Kia Soul, inches away from the school gates, except the gates won’t open until 3:30 p.m.

“[West Shore] is halfway between FIT and home,” Craig said. “I work in the dining services. I receive the trucked goods and make sure everything’s all right. When trucks start rolling in, I have to be there. If a truck’s late, then I’m late, but I’m usually here around 2 p.m.”

Craig’s now first in line in the pick-up line, as per usual. He is scrolling through Reddit, listening to Real Radio 104.1’s “The News Junkie” for the next hour and a half. Suddenly, a car pulls up behind him, scoring the silver second place in line. This is the White Corolla of Yesenia Soto, mother of seventh-grader Isabella Sanchez.

“I come earlier to pick up my daughter because it’s less time and it’s easier for me,” Soto said. “I work at a cleaning service, so I work around eight hours each day. I come here during my lunch break, which is usually two hours. My work understands my long lunch break and me needing to pick up my daughter.”

The line continues to grow behind Soto as the time nears 3:30 p.m. Dozens of cars neatly line up behind her, all with different reasons for an early arrival. But for Soto, her work constraints have kept her at the front of this line.

“It’s a lot of driving,” Soto said. “I live thirty to forty minutes away from school. I have to go from work to my house and back to school because I can’t use my work car to pick up my daughter.”

Coming earlier means long wait times, and long wait times call for creative pastimes. 

“When I’m waiting in the car, I call my family that lives in the Dominican Republic and eat lunch, since I don’t have time to at work,” Soto said. “It’s usually an hour or an hour and twenty minutes of waiting.”

Maddox finds himself out of school before some people can walk to their cars, being swept away by his grandpa almost as soon as the gates open. Maddox said this early pick-up is rewarding.

“I don’t think there are any downsides,” Maddox said. “I just feel like it’s better for us because we have things to do at home and after school. [My grandpa] picks me up early. We go places early. Yeah, we’re early. We’re early birds.”

By the time Craig, Soto, and the line of other “early birds” are done waiting and the gates are ready to open, the car line usually reaches down the road to Babcock, where it touches local traffic, stretching back up the road to the courthouse across the street.

 “We have gates, and that pushes a lot of cars that would normally be on our campus to interrupt the flow of traffic and community,” Assistant Principal of Curriculum Glenn Webb said. “Our parents respect the local neighbors. They don’t just block traffic in the middle of the road the whole time. They’ll pull off the side of the road and everybody politely gets into line and leaves enough room for cars to get by.”

Once the gates are open and the wave of cars is let loose, the traffic can get complicated. While students are crossing the road, cars are entering and leaving the lines. Webb is almost always the one directing the alternating jumble of traffic.

“Out in the road, I direct children leaving campus and walking across the street at the intersection where people are lining up for the high school car loop in one direction and the middle school car loop in the other direction,” Webb said. “It usually only takes between probably five to fifteen minutes to get all of the cars all the kids picked up and through that loop for the cars that are lined up ready at the end of the day.”

Freshman Jack Grimison gets picked up after the initial wave of cars washes away. 

“I usually get picked up around 3:45 or 3:50,” Grimison said. “The line at the car loop is usually bad before then, so my dad picks me up since he can’t stand to wait in line. But I make use of my time waiting, talking with my friends and walking around until I’m able to leave.”

Not all students are picked up in the car line. Sophomore Jack Boucher recently started driving to school and leaves through the student parking lot, which he said is a completely different environment from the car loop.

“It looks like a battlefield out there,” Boucher said. “All the kids [run] out to their cars to try to be the first ones out. There’s also about two or three couples who sit in the trunks of their Jeeps and do lovey-dovey things. But I still do like the freedom of driving to school despite the craziness.”

After getting to know some of the parents in line, Webb said he better understands their reasons for arriving early. 

“I realized that they all have different stories,” Webb said. “There are going to be sacrifices that have to be made for your child. Showing up a half hour early and getting you home in time to get homework done, or make it your baseball or softball practice; it’s a sacrifice a parent is willing to make.”