HAZARD—East Perry Elementary School opened its doors to students on Wednesday, bringing with it many positive and enriching experiences for the more than 700 students enrolled — and also, unfortunately, one experience for students’ parents that may have been more stress-inducing than enriching.
Jody Maggard, financial officer for the Perry County School District, has been closely involved with the opening process of East Perry over the summer. At the district’s board meeting Thursday evening, he spoke about some unforeseen parking issues at the school.
“Yesterday, parking, it was kind of a shock and awe; I’ll just be honest with you . I think it took everyone by surprise,” Maggard told the board.
The school day at East Perry ends at 2:55 p.m. every day. On the first day at the new school, it took over an hour for all students to be able to leave the building because there were so many parent pickups, Maggard said, and on the second day it still took 50 minutes.
“I’m saying, conservatively speaking … we’ve had, in the last two days, 700 plus cars for pickups,” he said. “The first day, single file, they (the cars) were to Walmart, but today we did not have traffic backed to Highway 80.”
Maggard said much of the issue is due to the number of parents choosing to pick up their students — around 90 percent of the school’s population — instead of letting them ride the bus.
“We’ve got eight buses now and they’re nowhere near capacity,” Maggard said. “That is the best option because at 3:05 p.m. today every bus had exited the property. I was hoping that some of those parents would see those buses leaving and would realize, hey, I can save myself 35-40 minutes just by using the buses.”
Maggard said he, Assistant Superintendent Johnny Wooton, and other staff members have been working every day since the start of school to adjust the processes for traffic to and from the school to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
“People ask why we haven’t striped that road yet and that’s why, because you can move cones but you can’t move stripes,” he said.
Maggard said the process used on Thursday was probably going to be one of the final plans for how pickups are handled.
Wooton said if it weren’t for all of the staff working to make sure students got to where they were supposed to be, it would have easily taken longer.
“With the staff that we had here (central office) working with the staff that we had up there, all the students was safe, some students got on the bus, but not many. Every student got in the right vehicle, and that’s the main thing,” Wooton said.
He added that staff will probably be able to cut an extra 10 minutes off of the time it takes to get through all of the pickups at the school, however, parents should understand that there will still be a substantial wait if they choose to pick up their child.
“If they want to come and pick them up that’s fine, but just expect delays. You’re not going to go up there and get them in 10 minutes,” he said.
Superintendent Jonathan Jett said parents should really consider utilizing the bus routes if at all possible, adding that if a bus does not run directly past a residence there is always a possibility to set up a bus stop for the parent to drive to meet the bus before and after school.
“Every car less that’s going up there will save time,” Jett said.