Traffic stalls first day of school at new and renovated campuses

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Traffic stalls first day of school at  new and renovated campusesIf there is a downside to $70 million in new and updated construction, it’s trying to find a streamlined way to usher 2,100 students into neighboring campuses on the first day of school.

“Obviously, there were traffic jams everywhere on our first day,” said Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent Ernie Bell. “With the renovations, all the pickups and dropoffs had been changed.”

Bell said that district officials had anticipated the confusion, and done everything they could think of to prepare for that day — including sending out maps of new driving patterns, staging officers to direct traffic flow and staggering the start times of Murray Middle School and Burroughs High School, which now sit on opposite sides of French Avenue at the Drummond Avenue intersection.

“Of course, habits are hard to change,” he said. “So on Monday afternoon we met as a group to talk about what changes we could implement to alleviate that congestion.”

By Monday evening, BHS Principal Bryan Auld had drafted an e-mail to parents clarifying the new patterns and adding a third drop-off point for anyone delivering students to school.

“Based on observations, we will determine if other adjustments or modifications are necessary. We know today was frustrating. Trust that we are working to improve the situation.”

On Wednesday morning, Bell stood at the intersection to make note of traffic trends. “What I saw [Wednesday] was 100 percent better. Yes, there was still waiting and there were still lines, but by the time the tardy bell rang at Murray, the lot was clear. Same thing with Burroughs.

“So the kids got to class on time, and for just one day I think the improvement was phenomenal. As the week goes on, I expect it will get even better.”

Start times for the schools were deliberately modified this year to allow for a buffer between Murray and Burroughs traffic.

“I think it worked,” said Bell. “You could see that by the time Burroughs traffic started arriving, Murray traffic started to clear.

“I would like to thank all of our parents. People have been very patient, which we appreciate, and they seem to be adjusting very well. In the meantime we will continue to do everything we can to direct traffic as efficiently as possible.”

Links to maps and information about traffic flow for both schools have been posted to the front page of the district’s website, www.ssusd.org, as well as on the Facebook page for the Ridgecrest Police Department.

Pictured: Ridgecrest Police Officer Cory Huard directs morning traffic at the corner of Drummond and French avenues — where drivers of more than 2,000 students faced new entry points and traffic patterns on Tuesday morning. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-08-18