UAE: Leave early, send children in school buses, experts suggest
Traffic snarls back as in-person classes begin
With students physically returning to schools in large numbers, traffic snarls are also back across Dubai and the UAE.
Massive tailbacks have been reported near schools as parents drop off or pick up their children in vehicles.
And with Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management announcing that schools will return to full in-person learning from October 3, there is likely to be a big increase in traffic.
Alison Baldwin, manager of school operations, GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis, said the best way around this problem is urging children to use school buses.
“The percentage of students travelling by school bus is still lower than it used to be, thus leading to a higher number of cars on the roads near schools for drop-off and pick up of students. Also, this past year, families have been anxious about carpooling with friends and neighbours due to the pandemic, which has also led to a higher number of journeys being made,” revealed Alison.
“We are working with our school transport team to reassure our parents, especially those who used the bus pre-Covid, of the safety measures taken on our buses, to encourage them to once more opt for the school bus. Over the coming weeks, we expect to see more carpooling, and hopefully also parents opting for the school bus service,” she added.
Nav Iqbal, principal/CEO, GEMS Metropole School – The Villa, said schools could also ponder staggered starts.
“My advice to any school community would be to carefully understand the root causes of any congestion, so that suitable solutions can be found. These could include staggered starts, longer drop-off times and scheduling start times so they do not overlap with those of neighbouring schools,” said Iqbal, whose school does not have staggered times.
“We do allow around 45 minutes in the morning for parents to drop off their children, and the same duration applies at pick-up. We also open several school gates, which allow parents to park safely around school for both pick-up and drop-off. Relative to the large size of our school, this has been seamless, though I am the first to admit that we can always improve,” he added.
Sangita Chima, principal of Amity School in Dubai, said that a difference in timings helps. “School timings in our school zone vary so as to reduce congestion during peak traffic hours. We commence school at 7.30am while other schools start at 7.40am. We also use multiple entry/exit gates for students who come by their own transport,” said Sangita.
Alison suggested other measures to ease the traffic logjam.
“Staggered start and finish times seem like the logical solution, but with so many siblings in schools, this would be difficult to coordinate, and it would make it harder for teachers to have an impactful start. And at the end of the day, students were all coming and going at different times.
“There is, therefore, a limit to what a school can do; solutions also lie with the local infrastructure. Enhanced signposting on roads surrounding schools can help to divert non-school traffic via other routes at key times. This would also help school traffic to clear quicker,” felt Alison.
She also had a piece of advice for parents.
“If using the bus is not an option, and you live too far from school for your child to walk or cycle, try and carpool to reduce the number of trips you have to make. When on the school run, allow yourself enough time to arrive at school safely, and be patient with other parents who are facing the same challenges."
"In addition, there is no harm in a short walk, if you can find a quieter road with better parking that is a five-minute walk from school, don’t waste your time trying to get as close to the school door as possible. Instead, stretch your legs and enjoy the walk and time to chat with your child about their day,” she said.
What road experts say
“We, as motorists, have to display the best possible behaviour around schools. We have to be role models for our children. And this starts even before we start our journey. We have to start our journey on time or even ahead of time. In my personal experience, when I dropped off my son at school, I made it a habit to start 15 minutes early. This meant we arrived at school 15 minutes early, which gave my son the opportunity to be there on time — stress-free — and he could meet and interact with his peers and friends. Once, we arrive at school, we have to continue being role models, we have to behave to the best possible standards — we have to be polite, caring, we have to treat others like how we want to be treated, we have to be as respectful and well mannered as possible because we want to be role models for our children.
— Thomas Edelmann, founder and managing director of RoadSafetyUAE
“Before the pandemic, I used to take 15 minutes from home to reach school to drop my kids. But now, it takes me about 40 minutes to drop my kids. I think parents now, with the pandemic, feel more protective about their children and kids who previously took the school bus before the pandemic are being dropped to school by their parents. Another reason I feel is parents having to show their vaccination status on the Al Hosn app or the vaccination card to enter the school premises. Sometimes, these are not kept on hand which causes delay to other parents.”
— Deepthy Sunil, who has three children studying in Grade 9, Grade 4 and Kindergarten
“Nowadays, with all the schools opening after the summer vacation, it is a big challenge with the traffic since all the parents, or most of them, are trying to drop their kids. And the same thing happens during the afternoon when it is rush hour. It is very challenging to be on time. However, with Amity School, the location is such that it is very, very convenient to come here. There are many alternative routes — when I come from Al Nahda, I find three different routes which make it easier for me and it doesn’t take a lot of time.”
— Nitin Yadav, whose son Parth studies in Grade 3
“As responsible parents and as per KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) requirements, we have already submitted our vaccination cards at the school security gates, so it helps in faster checks during dispersal and in the morning when we pick up and drop our kids to school. This way, we save on time and we try to avoid the peak traffic.”
— Jonita Moras, whose kids Kevin and Jaden study in Grade 1 and Grade 7 respectively.
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