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Campus security changes endanger our children’s safety

Karen Loggia is shown here with her son Elliot, who is a student at the Jewish Community Center’s Child Development Center.

The Jewish Community Campus recently announced that drivers will no longer be able to park in the circle drives in front of the Jewish Community Center’s Child Development Center (CDC) preschool and main entrance. We are told this decision was made to create a safer environment for children, members and visitors to the Campus, the JCC and other agencies housed in the building. And certainly after last April’s tragedy, it’s clear that our Campus has to be constantly vigilant to outside attacks.

 

With the stated changes there are no longer non-obstructed parking areas next to the CDC and Campus’ main entrances. Every child, that’s roughly 230 preschoolers, 40 After Kare kids, and many non-enrolled siblings, has to walk behind or between cars and through traffic lanes when they enter or leave the building through these doors. 

The unfortunate side effect is that the Campus is creating a daily danger for the youngest members of our community.

I want to be clear here. I embrace the Campus’ critical upgrades which create a campus safe from outside threats. We have a team of experts and the support of an entire community to make it happen. And with each change, I believe we are protecting ourselves while honoring those we have lost.

Yet at the same time, we need a CDC parking lot that is designed to keep children safe when walking in and out of the building. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. Instead they can, and must, exist in harmony. To imply otherwise is irresponsible.

What does a safe parking lot look like from the day care perspective? Quite simply: parking spaces that are adjacent to a sidewalk that leads directly into the building.

Consider these guidelines as set forth by U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), Public Building Service - Office of Child Care. (The full document can be found here: http://wbdg.org/ccb/GSAMAN/chilcare.pdf).

Drop-off areas must be arranged so that an adult can remove a child from the pedestrian side and proceed directly to the center without crossing traffic or crossing in front of or behind vehicles.

The parking should never be arranged in a way that forces children to proceed behind parked cars. Such an arrangement may mean that a driver is unable to see such pedestrians when backing up.

Locate the parking away from vehicle circulation routes.

I am sorry to say that the CDC parking lot, in its current state, violates each of these guidelines.

My research also brought me to www.kidsandcars.org, an organization that, as its name implies, regularly lobbies for kids and car safety. Director Amber Rollins was kind enough to share best practices, statistics and stories from parents who want to spare others from the pain they have endured from losing a child due to a backover or frontover.

The numbers are heartbreakingly sad. Every year, thousands of children are killed or seriously injured because a driver, most often a loved one, didn’t see them while backing up or slowly moving forward. The vast majority happen in parking lots and driveways.

Rollins further described the blind zones behind every car and how it comes into play in parking lots. For example, 62 kids could be behind a Suburban, completely obscured from the driver’s view, even when the driver is using their rearview and side view mirrors correctly. Putting that in perspective, four of these vehicles would hide every single child at the CDC. Then when you consider that vehicles parked on either side of a vehicle eliminate the driver’s vision of pedestrians walking into the path of their vehicle, pulling out of parking spots becomes increasingly dangerous.

We like to think that training kids and parents to obey the traffic rules will immune us from these tragedies. Yet young children are especially at risk behind vehicles because they are small, impulsive and unable to comprehend the danger of slow-moving vehicles. Even the best behaved children, even the good listeners, have been victims of backovers and frontovers.

Some support for the change stems from unsafe driving in the parking lot and circle drives. Unfortunately, this simply heightens my concerns. Instead of taking my children directly from the sidewalk to the car, I must navigate a maze of reckless and distracted drivers. I must be on constant high alert.

I put forth for your consideration that speed bumps, crosswalks and signage are not enough. Reminding drivers to drive courteously is not enough. We cannot expect children to act as rational adults. We cannot expect parents — who often are juggling bags, lunch boxes and multiple kids — to take the place of a well-designed parking lot. The bottom line is that a driver cannot avoid hitting something or someone that they literally cannot see.

Security changes are not easy. In fact, they typically are accompanied by inconveniences. Should the inconvenience be coupled with increased danger? Clearly, no, which is why I share my concern with our community. I write these words with the utmost admiration of our Campus security staff, the JCC staff and respect for the memory of those slain in K.C. and around the world in the name of Judaism. I implore the Campus and the JCC to continue to review its parking lots and plan for necessary improvements that account for needed security upgrades as well as the safety of its youngest patrons.

 

Karen Loggia is a wife, mom, marketer and active member of the Kansas City community. Her children, ages 5 and 3, attend Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy/After Kindergarten Kare and the Child Development Center respectively.