Officials of the City of Smithville and the DeKalb County School System have come up with a plan for dealing with traffic problems in the school zone at Northside Elementary School, but it may be several weeks before it can be implemented.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says he met last week with Smithville Alderman and Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks, Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings, Northside Elementary School Principal Dr. Gayle Redmon, and Transportation Supervisor Peggy Pursell.
Concerns were raised last week during a meeting of the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen that an accident could occur in the school zone unless the problem was addressed. The issue is that parents who pick up their children in the afternoons have to line up on the shoulder of Highway 56 north which makes it difficult for motorists exiting the school parking lot from being able to see around them. And because of the heavy traffic on Highway 56 during that time, many motorists leaving the school have to wait a long time before they can get back out on the road. Some say either the city, county, or school system should have an officer or trained civilian to direct traffic there during the mornings and afternoons.
Willoughby says the proposal is to extend the school zone at Northside Elementary to Smith Road and to have the buses enter and exit on Smith Road. Parents would no longer be permitted to park on the shoulder of the road but they would have more room to enter and exit the school from Highway 56. There are apparently no plans under this proposal to have anyone directing traffic. "We've looked at what we can do to address that, hopefully to alleviate some of the problem, I don't know that it will solve the problem. We'll be re-directing our buses to enter and leave through the Smith Road area. Therefore, the buses will not be lined up with car traffic in the mornings or afternoons, which we're hoping will help some. We're not going to start this right now, we're going to wait for a few things to happen,. We're going to move the flashing lights down there at Smith Road, then we will move (extend) the school zone a little bit further down the road. By doing that, we're hoping to get those buses away from the cars. You know, four or five buses will take up a lot of car space. Hopefully, that is going to help some. And then the cars would be snaking through the parking lot, similar to what they have in the past. But we'll be getting the buses out of the way. The cars would be entering and exiting the same place they have always have, the only difference is that the buses will not be entering or exiting in the places where they have in the past. The buses will only be entering and exiting at Smith Road.."
Again Willoughby says the plan has not yet been implemented. TDOT may have to grant permission to extend the school zone before the signs and flashing lights can be relocated and some minor work has to be done at the entrance to the school property from Smith Road in order for buses to have easier access.