May 25, 2022
This past school year, the high schools in Pickerington invited adults in the community to join “Parents on Positivity Patrol” (PoPP) (also called “Claws On Patrol” at Central and “Paw Patrol” at North).
Per the Pickerington Local School District website, “the PoPP program builds positive relationships with students, and provides an opportunity for parents to be engaged in the schools.”
The program began in March once volunteers were vetted (background checked), and completed three hours of training (cultural sensitivity, safety protocols and verbal de-escalation skills). Members of PoPP are required to:
- Have background checks.
- Be approved as a Level 2 volunteer.
- Be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Be scheduled in the building according to availability.
Volunteer Luann Todd said that PoPP are at the schools to encourage positivity and not to discipline.
“I greet the kids and say, ‘good morning’,” Todd said. “I make sure they are going to class and not wandering around. Kids are coming and going at all times throughout the day and the teachers need to be in their classrooms. There are constant class changes at the high school due to the over-crowded hallways. The frequent class changes help with the overcrowding but is very disruptive for learning.”
The PoPP volunteers also check restrooms on a consistent basis to ensure that students are using them for proper reasons. The schools provide each volunteer with a safety plan and a walkie talkie to contact staff if behavior requires intervention.
Todd said that her interactions with the student have been positive and behavior issues are “honestly, not that bad. People try to make the schools sound worse than they are. There are a lot of really, really good kids.
I love going there. My youngest graduates this year and my oldest graduated in 2012, so I know a lot of teachers. The teachers are extremely grateful as are the administrators. I also get 2.5 to 3 miles worth of walking around instead of sitting at my desk.”
For the most part, the students seem to appreciate the volunteers.
“Some are excited we are there, others just walk past,” Todd said. “My daughter’s friend ducks and tries to avoid me when I am there. I’ve known her for a long time, so it’s kinda funny.”
The helpers work a couple times a week during the hours where hall traffic is heaviest such as the morning and lunch shifts. One volunteer, known to the students as “Grandma Patrol”, comes in once a week but stays for most of the day.
“The students love when she’s there,” Todd said.
Any adult who completes the background check is welcome to join PoPP. Next year, Todd intends to serve at Ridgeview despite no longer having a child enrolled in the district.
The PLSD will be introducing the program to both junior highs to alleviate stress related to overcrowding.
“The problem with Ridgeview is that even though there is enough classroom space, the hallways are so small. The Parent Patrol will help next year,” Todd said.
This is an opportunity for those concerned about the district to make an impact.
“We need more parents,” she said. “It’s the same handful of people who do everything. Our kids need us, and our community needs us. We need men to check the men’s bathrooms. We need dads. We need grandpas.”
School board member Vanessa Niekamp agreed that an adult volunteer directing traffic through Ridgeview’s jammed hallway intersections would be an immense help. Many behaviors arise from the young teenagers jostling against each other between classes.
“My dad would have said the Indians outnumber the chiefs,” Niekamp said. “There are so many students right now that it is hard to control the behaviors that they are exhibiting. There are kids not wanting to go to the restroom by themselves, not wanting to be in the halls, having anxiety about going to lunch – all because of behaviors that some other students exhibit and our ability to try to address them and address them quickly with so many kids around.
I think our teachers are doing everything they can, but a lot of the kids feel very uncomfortable. We need help from the community. Take two hours off once a month to just be a mom in the schools.”
She personally plans to join the PoPP for the next school year and encourages other to do the same. For more information about becoming a PoPP volunteer, please contact Juanita Lemke at Juanita_Lemke@plsd.us.