Jasper City Schools prepares for realignment, traffic woes

Nichole Smith
Posted 8/13/17

Schools in Jasper City are bracing for traffic delays and the first day of implementing the district’s reconfiguration Tuesday.

Traffic work on Viking Drive that leads to Jasper High School has …

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Jasper City Schools prepares for realignment, traffic woes


Schools in Jasper City are bracing for traffic delays and the first day of implementing the district’s reconfiguration Tuesday.

Traffic work on Viking Drive that leads to Jasper High School has continued over the summer, with ALDOT taking significantly longer than first anticipated to complete road work that will eventually accommodate heavier traffic flow. The Jasper City Board of Education is having a second road constructed behind the high school that will connect to Indiana Avenue to alleviate traffic; however, a soggy summer with flooding across the county has delayed completion of the second road project, as well.

Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson said the clock is ticking and the road behind the school likely won’t be completed by the first day of school Tuesday, and ALDOT may not be finished with road work on Viking Drive until later this year. Jackson said when heavy rainfall persists, road crews can’t work in the rain or the day after it rains, due to muddy conditions.

“We are working on some things to help accommodate the traffic issues that we’re anticipating,” Jackson said Friday afternoon.

The school district is currently in the process of organizing earlier drop off times to help stagger traffic and prevent major delays.

Jasper High School Principal Bart Reeves said once the second road is finished behind the high school, it will allow for two entrances to the high school — the main entrance at Viking Drive and an access road near the Daily Mountain Eagle. Indiana Avenue will provide an exit route and an additional entry to the high school; however, until road construction behind the school is completed, Reeves asks everyone to be patient.

“Every school has traffic issues for the first few days, even well-established schools. We just ask that everyone be patient. It’s a new situation for everyone,” Reeves said. “We’re hoping when the road behind the school is completed, it will alleviate pressure off of Viking.”

Just down the road along Viking Drive at T.R. Simmons Elementary, Principal Jonathan Allen said they are staggering dismissal times and will also be allowing parents to drop their kids off early for school.

“We have a couple of things that we’ve done to try to expedite loading and getting kids in the buses so that they’re not in the car traffic,” he said. “We’ll start bus dismissal before our dismissal bell, and we are also staggering the buses and how they will arrive at the school so that can minimize the amount of bus traffic.”

Pre-K and kindergarten students will dismiss at the rear of the school, while first graders will dismiss at the school’s entrance.

Allen said school district realignment has resulted in roughly 100 fewer students attending T.R. this year, which will mean less traffic at the elementary school.

“One thing that we can assure parents and community members with is that our doors will open early. We expect that there will be challenges, and traffic will be something that might be a burden to some extent, but after time this will all work out and we’ll be better for it,” Allen said.

Memorial Park Elementary Principal Eric Rigsby discussed the district’s realignment as well, and he said teachers and staff have been busy preparing for the first school day.

“We have had wonderful meetings with our staff members, and they are prepared and ready for the upcoming school year,” Rigsby said. “We ask parents to please be patient over the first few weeks of school. It will take our students a few weeks to get adjusted to the changes.”

Rigsby said he is excited about the expansion of Memorial Park’s after school programs that will include the 21st Century Program, Boys and Girls Club and Club Nat.

T.R.’s principal said they spent the summer renovating their school gym to be more accommodating for Pre-K through first graders.

Maddox Intermediate Principal Marc Sargent could not be reached for comment; however, the school’s library has been renovated over the summer with a fresh coat of paint, appealing decorations and fun seating options for students.

Due to school district realignment, teachers have spent the summer moving into new classrooms, including teachers who taught at the now-closed West Jasper Elementary. Students from North Highlands School, which also closed, will be making the move to a self-contained area to meet their needs at Jasper High School.

In addition, the district announced seventh and eighth grade students will make up Jasper Jr. High School, led by Principal Lutis Moore, who made the move from Maddox.

Allen admits it has been a challenging summer to get everything organized for the return of students, but he commends the school system’s leadership and is hopeful for a bright school year.

“It’s been exciting and probably the hardest summer I’ve ever had in my years of education,” he said. “We’ve moved more furniture and done more cleaning and planning [than ever] for this change, but I think it may be one of the most rewarding school years we’ll ever have.”