Black Mountain Primary parent starts petition to walk child to school

A parent at Black Mountain Primary School has started a petition to allow parents to accompany their children to school.

Kaycee Eckhardt started the petition and said by this year parents could bring their children to school no matter how far away they lived. That policy has now changed.

Buncombe County Schools communications director Stacia Harris said the policy allows parents who live or work within half a mile of the school to drop their children off at school.

Eckhardt said she only found out about the regulation on the Thursday before school started.

“I moved to Black Mountain last year and bought a house within a mile of the school so I can take my daughter to school when she starts preschool,” Eckhardt said. “At Black Mountain, we’re a really nice, small, safe community. It’s a great place for my daughter and I.”

The district cites safety concerns as the main reason for the policy.

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“This is for the safety of motorists and pedestrians during the busy morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up,” Harris said in an email. “Also, we have public bus stops where parents can register and take their child to that bus stop. This process allows us to ensure children are safely dropped off and picked up.”

Eckhardt said she wanted to maintain a respectful relationship with the school but questioned the validity of the policy.

To date, more than 80 people have signed Eckhardt’s petition, some of whom are parishioners and not parents of the school. Many of them share their concerns about the environmental impact of waiting in a line of cars and the opportunity to spend time with their children.

Eckhardt said pickup starts at 2:35 p.m., with cars queuing at 1:15 p.m. She said she arrived at 2:00 p.m. and that there were 35 cars ahead of her, most of them idling with petrol on fire.

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“For me, that speaks for disrespect for our environment,” said Eckhardt. “The option to lower that would absolutely reduce pollution and respect our city.”

Referring to the school’s safety concerns, Eckhardt said the route from her home to the school is mostly on the greenway, and the neighborhoods surrounding the school all have sidewalks.

“It’s a very, very safe place,” Eckhardt said. “I think it shows a level of fear and unsafety that we don’t have at Black Mountain. I know the school has concerns about distracted driving, but part of me questions the hype about getting my kid into a public school.”

Another concern of Eckhardt is to be able to spend more time with her daughter. She said time with her daughter is precious to her and that other parents feel the same way.

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As a single mom, Eckhardt says she’s particularly sensitive to the time she gets to spend with her daughter. Her daughter’s father lives in Weaverville, and her daughter drives 45 minutes each way to get to Black Mountain Primary when she is staying with him.

Eckhardt said while she has already been in contact with the principal, she hopes to get enough parental support to get a small group together to discuss options.

One option Eckhardt has is to create a “running bus” where families wanting to take their children to school can meet and walk together, reducing the number of cars in the pickup line and allowing more time to be spent together.

“Many families appreciate this time,” says Eckhardt. “I’m hoping to get enough signatures that it really matters that this is a sense of community and not just a couple of parents who are upset.”

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