More than 30,000 students will return to school today in Gainesville-Hall County, leaving streets around local schools backed up with cars and buses.
But school and law enforcement officials said they are anticipating the traffic and have hopefully prepared for the ebb and flow of vehicles.
“Of course, we are expecting traffic delays in and around the schools tomorrow morning and afternoon,” said Cpl. Kevin Holbrook, spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department. “These typically will last through the first week of school.”
Parents and students entering and exiting the tri-campus area on Pearl Nix Parkway during drop-off and pickup hours are likely to notice some difference from years past.
According to Merrianne Dyer, superintendent for Gainesville City Schools, from 6:45 until 8 a.m. and from 1:45 until 3 p.m., only cars with permit decals will be able to travel from the intersection of Wood’s Mill Road and Elephant Trail down to Wood’s Mill Academy.
The system is also asking parents of Centennial Arts Academy students to use the John Morrow Parkway entrance of Gainesville High School to access the school, as well as the Pearl Nix Parkway entrance.
Also, the back entrance of Centennial is now reserved solely for buses.
“We ask for the patience and cooperation of our community as we begin the new school year,” said Dyer.
Some streets around Gainesville High will also be closed during lunch hours.
Holbrook said that alternate routes for all other drivers should be used during the first few days of school, if possible.
“We would like to remind all motorists in the Gainesville area to use alternate routes if possible on Friday when school starts back,” said Holbrook. “Most of the major traffic issues occur around the elementary schools, especially Enota (Multiple Intelligences Academy) and Centennial.”
In another attempt to ease traffic, the city system has implemented two satellite bus stops for tuition-paying students.
Nearly 380 students will be encouraged to use those stops, at the Green Street pool and on Estates Drive.
Traffic is also expected to be heavier near the Old South Middle School campus that now houses the Academies of Discovery.
The building will now be home to a portion of two schools: Da Vinci Academy and World Language Academy.
“I’m expecting a lot of parents to pick up kids there,” said Jewel Armour, executive director of operations for Hall County Schools.
Armour encourages parents to enter the school on the Atlanta Highway side, adjacent to the soccer fields.
There will be some differences at Spout Springs Elementary, which Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, said “had proven to be problematic in the past.”
He said this year car traffic will use the left lane of the bus entrance just east of the main drive. All traffic will exit from the main entrance and a crossing guard will be posted at that point “to assist traffic in re-entering Spout Springs Road.”
The rest of the schools will operate as normal, officials said.
“We would like to ask for everyone’s cooperation and patience on the roadway,” said Holbrook.
“Please be mindful of children waiting near and around roadways. Please be observant of school buses and their stopping procedures for picking up and letting children off. If you aren’t dropping your children off at a school please consider other alternative routes. We want the first day of school to be as safe as possible for everyone, especially the children.”