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School system will stagger schedules to alleviate GMS traffic snarl
Traffic backs up Wednesday afternoon entering and leaving Gainesville Middle School. School officials have been working on solutions to the problem of long lines of cars and buses as parents drop off and pick up students at the new school. - photo by Tom Reed

After traffic issues Tuesday at Gainesville Middle School, school officials met Wednesday morning to discuss how to better direct buses and parents through the property.

In a meeting at the middle school library, Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said much of the trouble is likely due to the newness of the school and will be resolved with time.

"Middle school parents in the past have not had to go across town," Dyer said. "Everybody’s in a learning curve."

Tuesday was the first day of the school year for Gainesville schools, and Gainesville Middle School’s debut.

A large number of parents opted to drive their children to the first day of school, which caused traffic to back up on Jesse Jewell Parkway.

The school is situated just off the busy street next to the popular Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center.

After discussing options, officials concluded the best way to begin alleviating the traffic in the area is to stagger student dismissal times.

Students who walk or are picked up in cars will be the first group to be dismissed.

The biggest obstacle will be teaching parents and students to be in the right place at the right time, said Assistant Superintendent David Shumake.

"That’s the variable you have no control of," Shumake said. "If people will be patient we’re working on it."

Dyer said students with last names that begin with the letters A through M will be dismissed at 3:20 p.m. Those whose names begin with the letters N through Z will go at 3:40 p.m.

Parents who are not on time are encouraged to wait until 3:50 p.m. to help control traffic.

Jerry Castleberry, assistant director of maintenance and operations, said he would tell a portion of the school’s 32 school bus drivers to enter the property through Quarry Street.

Buses will also pick up students in two shifts.

"Through dividing up we can make it work," Castleberry said.

Another problem the school encountered on its first day was that most parents were not driving in the far right lane once on school property.

The staging lane doubles as parking spaces, which led drivers to believe they could not drive in that space.

"Those aren’t meant to be used as parking places during school hours," Dyer said.

Traffic cones will now be placed outside to help direct people to the appropriate driving areas.

"It’s a day-to-day experience, observation is key," said Gainesville Traffic Engineer Dee Taylor.