The words ‘traffic’ and ‘schools’ have been somewhat synonymous in Richmond Hill, especially on Hwy. 144 driving into and out of the K-5 schools.
Each year, officials both in the school system and the community have been working together to come up with ideas for improvement, ways to better the traffic flow and offer up less time waiting in the car line.
The current Bryan County News website poll, which has been running for the past week, asks, "Do you think the school traffic on Hwy. 144 is better this year?"
Residents in the community are split almost down the middle.
As of Tuesday, there were 28 votes for "much better," 21 votes for "too soon to tell," 34 votes for "about the same as last year" and 30 votes for "much worse."
Bryan County Assistant Superintendent Brad Anderson said traffic has continued to improve and is "considerably better" since the first day, Aug. 8.
This year, a new bus route was created in the hopes of providing an easier, faster method of getting children into the K-5 complex area, which Anderson said has been effective.
"We believe that separating the pre-K parent line from the Richmond Hill Primary School car line traffic has reduced the amount of cars on the city streets and placed them on Bryan BoE property," he said. "We are loading all schools more quickly this year when compared to the times last year – our hopes are that this only improves."
Richmond Hill Police Chief Billy Reynolds agreed there have been improvements.
"It does seem like it’s getting better and it will keep getting better in the coming weeks," he said.
A drive down Frances Meeks Way at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday indicated parents were waiting a few minutes at most to drive through and pick up their children.
There was no car line beyond those inside each school’s individual parking lot and no cars appeared to be at a complete stop until picking up children.
Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer noted the year started off with all bus positions filled with trained drivers.
"All routes are assessed daily to maintain the proper number of riders for the capacity of the bus," she said. "Arrival and departure has been made more efficient by the addition of a bus road and the use of a new Carver parking lot at the back of the school...A new parking area that serves Carver and will serve the replacement RHES has relieved parking shortages for staff."
Anderson noted they are still working to improve the car line times coming in off Frances Meeks Way – but are also committed to making sure they "get the right student in the right car and ensuring the students are buckled up prior to leaving."
During the first week, Anderson said school administrators and staff assigned to car line duties met on several occasions to figure out how to improve the system.
"We added a dedicated lane for Carver parents further down on Frances Meeks Way and reversed the way cars enter in the afternoon at RHPS," he noted. "Buses are working with the new plan effectively. We are encouraged with having the buses interact with car line traffic minimally. (Director of Transportation) Mr. Allen Cox is continuing to level the bus loads based on student riders."
In the coming weeks, Anderson said he is confident things will only continue to get better.
"I believe that as we progress, parents will become more familiar with the car line procedures and can find the best plan for them," he said.