Black Mountain Primary parent starts petition to walk her child to school

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Buncombe County Schools said students, including those at Black Mountain Primary, are only allowed to walk to school if they live within a half mile.

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

Kaycee Eckhardt started the petition and said that until this year parents were able to walk their children to school regardless of how far away they lived. That policy has now changed.

Buncombe County Schools Director of Communications Stacia Harris said the policy allows parents who live or work within a half mile of the school to walk their children to school.

Eckhardt said she did not find out about the policy until the Thursday before school started.

Kaycee Eckhardt started a petition to allow parents to be able to walk their students to Black Mountain Primary School.

"I moved to Black Mountain last year and bought a house within a mile of the school specifically so that I could walk my daughter to school when she started kindergarten," Eckhardt said. "In Black Mountain, we are a really lovely, small, safe community. It's a great place for my daughter and I to be."

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

"This is for the safety of car riders and pedestrians during the busy morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up," Harris said in an email. "Additionally, we have community bus stops that parents can sign up for and walk their child to that bus stop. This process allows us to account for an ensure that children are being dropped off and picked up safely."

Eckhardt said she wants to maintain a respectful relationship with the school, but she questions the policy's validity.

To date, more than 80 people have signed Eckhardt’s petition, some of whom are community members and not parents at the school. Many of them share her concerns, namely the environmental impact of waiting in a car line and the ability to spend time with their children.

Eckhardt said that the while pick-up begins at 2:35 p.m., the cars start to line up at 1:15 p.m. She said she arrived at 2 p.m. and there were 35 cars in front of her, most of them idling burning gas.

“For me, that just speaks to almost a disrespect to our environment,” Eckhardt said. “The option to lower that would absolutely reduce pollution and respect our town.”

Speaking to the safety concerns of the school, Eckhardt said the walk from her home to the school is mostly on the greenway and the neighborhoods around the school all have sidewalks.

“It’s a very, very safe place to be,” Eckhardt said. “I think it indicates a level of fear and lack of safety that we don’t have in Black Mountain. I know the school has concerns about distracted driving, but there’s some part of me that questions the overreach of how I deliver my child into a public school.”

Another of Eckhardt’s concerns involve being able to spend more time with her daughter. She said the time with her daughter is valuable to her and other parents feel the same way.

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

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

One option Eckhardt has is to create a "walking bus" where families who want to walk their children to school all meet and walk together, allowing less cars in the pick-up line and more time with each other.

“There’s a lot of families that value that time,” Eckhardt said. “I’m hoping to get enough signatures so it really makes a point that this is a community feeling and not just a couple parents that are upset.”