Any parent who has participated in a carpool arrangement knows that, though they can be the school year's greatest gift, they can also go horribly, horribly wrong without good communication and a solid set of rules. We've thought about all aspects of a carpool and have come up with six basic rules for your back-to-school carpool that you can tweak, expand on, and eliminate depending on the age of the children and the group dynamic — happy carpooling and happy new school year!
1. Know your rotation patterns.
Will you have one parent do an entire day? Can you only do drop-offs in the morning? Are you unavailable on Wednesdays? These are all things to consider when deciding how to rotate the schedule. Keep it all on a calendar — or use an app that the entire group can access — so you know who your child will be with and when, and when you need to be the one grabbing the kiddos off the pickup line.
2. Don't forget to communicate.
If your child has something after school or is sick, let the carpool know — especially if it was your day to pick up or drop off and you can no longer do it. If you have the carpool in place because other parents are working on the days they can't drive, they'll need to know as early as possible, so they can make other arrangements, and the school will likely need to know who is picking up your child as well. Group texts and emails are perfect, as long as every member is on top of checking them.
3. Make sure the children know where to meet you for pickup and when.
Some schools have carpool lines, and the kids can just hop in once your car gets to the front, but if your child's school doesn't have a system like that in place, make sure all of the kiddos know where to meet each other at the end of the day, and where to find you. Time is an important factor here, too — they should know what time you'll be around to pick them up, so that if you're late, they'll know that they either need to go inside to call the parent who's coming — each child should have the numbers of all of the parents involved — or hang around in a specific place to wait it out.
4. Talk about car seats, booster seats, and the shotgun seat.
Are all of the children in car seats? Is it a mix of children in different seats? Is someone old enough/at a weight acceptable for the front seat? These are all questions to consider when planning out a carpool to begin with, and if your carpool sometimes consists of different children every day or week, it might be more complicated. Know beforehand that you have enough room for all of the kids and their seats and if you're allowed to have one of the kids in the front seat with you or not. Also, if you rotate daily, does every parent have access to the car seats/booster seats necessary?
5. Carpools should go to and from school, and that's it.
Obviously the nature of your carpool will vary, but in most cases, parents involved in driving children to and from school should not be running errands or getting their gas tank filled with all of the kids in the car. Fill up your gas tank before pickup, and run your errands after you drop off the kids that aren't yours, or some other time. All of the children's safety should be the first priority, and leaving kids in the car — especially if it's hot — so you can grab toothpaste at a drugstore isn't necessarily a priority.
6. At the end of the day, safety is key.
Make sure your insurance, registration, tune-ups, and everything else having to do with your car is up to date. Keeping the kids safe is the number-one priority, so make sure you can get to and from school without getting pulled over for a brake light being out, or the car breaking down — Godspeed and good luck keeping a bunch of kids quiet and calm if you're broken down on the side of the highway.