Officials working to ease traffic congestion at schools

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

By Jonna Spelbring Priester, General Manager

As the Henry County Public Schools district begins the start the high school renovation project, parents and motorists passing by the school have experienced delays as all car traffic has been redirected to the parking lot's north entrance.

Though the long line has extended beyond the 4-Seasons gas station at times, Henry County Public Schools Superintendent Tim Abrams said appearances are deceiving.

"It's going very well, actually, I guess appearances are deceiving," he said. "Traffic always is bad between 8 and 8:30 a.m."

For now, only bus traffic is allowed into the south parking lot entrance, while student drivers, teachers and parents must use the north entrance. That, along with just where the students need to go, has caused some confusion, Abrams said. Parents were notified, he said, several days before traffic was rerouted.

Currently, middle and high school parents pick up their students in front of the middle school.

"The deputy state fire marshal visited and approved the plan, but for any visitor or parent coming into the school ... they have to enter in the back entrance of the building," he added.

For school safety reasons, Abrams said when high school parents go to the back door there is a temporary receptionist's desk to help direct parents, whether picking up a student or visiting someone.

Last week, Henry County Sheriff's Deputy, and Henry County High School School Resource Officer Mike Lucas, began directing traffic. Lucas said the gridlock seemed to be improving.

"It's just a matter, a lot of it, of training people about what to expect," he said. "I didn't like seeing (traffic) backed up to New Castle. I've tried to alleviate that. I was almost afraid that (directing traffic) would make it worse. (Thursday), I thought it worked well."

Abrams said with Lucas directing traffic, the parking lot was cleared of students and parents in ten minutes, one afternoon.

"We've been very pleased, people have been very pleased, we appreciate their patience," he said. "Traffic patterns will remain this way for a little while. There will be times when it will be worse."

There may come a point when bus traffic is rerouted to the north entrance, but Abrams said that would be a short term situation. "They're going to have to put in a big drainage pipe at the high school that will cross (the south entrance)," he said. "We're hoping that in a two week span, that will be able to be accomplished. We will try to give everyone a heads up to that before that happens."

Lucas said drivers adjusting to the change was the biggest problem.

"It's a matter of getting everybody used to it and the changes," he said. "Really there's not a whole lot of difference because it's always been a bit backed up."

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