Great Neck restricts student driving for safety reasons

Robert Pelaez
Dr. Prengergast going over the improved safety measures the district will be implementing this school year. (Photo by Rob Pelaez)

High school seniors in Great Neck will be barred from driving off campus during school hours this year.

The Great Neck Board of Education set the new rule last Thursday at the last meeting for the summer as it approved measures to improve safety for students and staff.

The board was in executive session for 3 1/2 hours before opening its meeting to the public.

Until this year, seniors at the district’s two high schools were permitted to drive off campus during the fourth quarter of the school day under certain conditions, including consent from a parent or guardian, no passengers, and a certain amount of free time.

After outreach from concerned parents, paired with a history of seniors who did not adhere to the guidelines, the seniors’ privilege has been revoked.

“Unfortunately, we have had instances in which students had taken advantage of these exceptions, and we as the board feel as though not taking action would go against our main goal of keeping our students’ safety as a top priority,” said board member Donna Peirez.

One Great Neck South High School senior, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The district is being pretty ridiculous.  I understand they want to keep the students safe, and that others have taken advantage of the policy before, but that has nothing to do with what our senior class is like.” 

Another senior from South High who also spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Saying no to a 17- or 18-year-old who wants to go get lunch is absurd.  I’m sure there will be more kids in our grade wishing to speak out soon enough.”

Barricades and heightened personnel security will be in place to deter students from driving until a more permanent solution is decided upon.

Aside from the restriction on senior driving, a change to the schools’ security system has been implemented, with the school board spending countless hours finding ways to monitor authorized visitors.

Under state law, every school district must adopt and amend a comprehensive districtwide school safety plan and draw up building-level plans for crisis intervention, emergency response and management. Though the law has been enforced by the state for over 10 years, subsections have been expanded to ensure school districts comply with and adapt to the enhanced modifications.

Superintendent Teresa Prendergast emphasized that student, faculty and staff safety is of the utmost concern for the school board. She highlighted some of the additions, such as a heightened security system for visitors entering school buildings.

“Anyone who is not a member of the school (student, faculty, staff) will be buzzed in and will then have to speak into a small camera and voice security system, where the guest will state their name and business being at the school, before being allowed to sign in,” Prendergast said.

The administrators of district schools have been refreshed on procedures for drills, evacuation, lock down and sheltering.

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Robert Pelaez

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