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At one Philly school, 'Jenks Dads on Duty' change the dynamic at pickup and dropoff

Kristen A. Graham, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Lifestyles

PHILADELPHIA — In frigid or sweltering weather, in sleet or snow or pouring rain, the dads are there — managing the morning car line, high-fiving students, and keeping an eye on the playground at J.S. Jenks Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Khayri McKinney, father of four Jenks students, wouldn’t be anywhere else than where he is every morning: stationed just off Germantown Avenue in a yellow “Jenks Dads on Duty” hoodie.

“In that two minutes from the car to the door, we’re able to change the dynamic of the day,” said McKinney. “It’s just, ‘Yo, we’re Jenks dads, have a great day.’”

The group, roughly a dozen men — fathers, but also stepfathers, brothers and grandfathers — is a constant, and Jenks principal Corinne Scioli said the impact of Jenks Dads on Duty on the Philadelphia public school in Chestnut Hill can’t be overestimated.

“The dads are this web of connection to so many homes, so many families,” said Scioli. “They’re the eyes and ears, parents making an impact that we can’t.”

Filling a vacuum

 

The group sprang up in the 2021-22 school year, when students were trying to adjust to new interpersonal dynamics after a year spent learning remotely and schools coped with widespread personnel shortages. Jenks had no crossing guard or school security officer in a year when both were essential.

Scioli tried to fill the vacuum as much as she could, but it was tough.

“I was out there with an assistant principal and a walkie-talkie and stop sign,” the principal said, “and parents noticed and supported.”

A group of men began stepping in every day, stationing themselves along Germantown Avenue, East Southampton Avenue, and Ardleigh Street around the K-8 school. They watched out for fights on the playground, made sure no intruders tried to get into the building, and listened to children and their parents.

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