Huntsville City Schools actively addressing traffic congestion concerns

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The start of the school year always brings traffic congestion. But some Whitesburg School parents have contacted us about issues at the school. They say they have to leave 30 to 45 minutes earlier than before to make drop-off and pick-up at the new P-8 school.

No one likes waiting in traffic -- we know that. But parents, we're told your patience will be rewarded. Huntsville City Schools already has some solutions in place to help traffic flow at Whitesburg and other schools.

Aerial video of Whitesburg P-8 morning traffic. (ETV)

Aerial video of Whitesburg P-8 morning traffic. (ETV)

Whitesburg school has a totally different footprint than last year. Elementary parents still enter campus on Sanders Road. But middle school parents must now turn on Martin Road to enter the school and loop around to let students out. The current flow pattern takes drivers back around the school where they eventually merge with the elementary crowd. But there is now an additional traffic queuing lane open that contractors were still trying to get paved when school began.

"There were weather factors that actually set that back, so now as of today they've actually finished with that paving," explains Huntsville City School Spokesman Keith Ward. "So that's going to alleviate some of that problem."

The traffic pattern was studied last week from above using a drone. After meetings with the superintendent and directors of operation, traffic and security, the district has also decided to add some crossing guards to solve congestion in school parking lots and at entry and exit points.

"We do know that we might to still make some other tweaks and adjustments because what may logistically look like it's smooth on paper may need to have some tweaking," Ward admits.

And the system is already doing that with plans to add a crossing guard at Martin Road to help coordinate double lines to enter the school. They are also talking about rerouting some traffic back to Martin to reduce the number of cars moving across the parking lot to exit on Sanders Road. They are also going to allow some part-time campus security officers to assist with traffic.

There are also traffic concerns at Jones Valley Elementary.  The school PTA sent an email to parents last week asking for advice on whether to set Jones Valley's start and departure times back to 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the school district.  Many parents feel 15 minutes may make a world of difference when a neighboring school starts back Wednesday.

Last year, Jones Valley made a change and started class at 8:00 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m. That helped because Randolph High School is almost directly across Garth Road. But both schools are dismissing at 3:00 p.m. on the dot this year.

"With that we were trying to logistically get some uniformity across the district because it certainly makes it easier if you're going to have schedule changes either due to weather or other factors," Ward says.

But with merging traffic from both schools at the same time and the commingling of teenage drivers and grade school kids, you can imagine the safety concerns of some parents.  Ward stresses the conversation isn't yet closed.

"The PTA last week was working on communicating with the other parents; I think they'd done a survey within the PTA to see about options to see if option A over option B would be better suited for them. Now that we have more concrete data and we're going to get that feedback and also look at what those patterns are this week," says Ward of school system efforts.

But Randolph students begin Wednesday, and in lieu of returning to staggered dismissal and start times, or, widening Garth road of course, parents will definitely need to remain patient.

The Huntsville City Schools' Security Operations Coordinator says as a safety precaution, the district will add another crossing guard at Jones Valley in the mornings. They'll also extend the time crossing guards work each afternoon.