school bus kids
BETHALTO — It wasn’t the way Jill Griffin envisioned her first day of school.
Griffin, Bethalto School District’s new superintendent, wasn’t attending school, but rather hoping the first day of class would go off without a hitch for students and parents after changes were implemented over the summer regarding the pickup and drop-off procedures at some of the district’s schools.
“The way that we had been doing it in the past created quite a lot of congestion for our community on main arteries and roads through town,” Griffin said.
The changes came after police, fire and village officials approached the district in spring regarding congestion on some of the village’s main roads.
“We had situations where they were rerouting emergency vehicles because of the congestion that our schools were causing,” Griffin said. “We had parents previously that were double- and triple-parking on main roadways through town, and there was no way to get through. It was causing a lot of problems.”
Griffin said she welcomed the opportunity to work with the village’s leaders and said the process was “fantastic.” Plans were put in place to alleviate that traffic on main thoroughfares, even if it meant congestion on side streets or less busy roads.
But the first day of school brought more issues, with a bottleneck behind Trimpe Middle School and one of the elementary schools causing delays and leading to frustration among parents and students alike. Griffin said she called an emergency meeting with the government entities to come up with solutions to the newfound problems.
Bethalto wasn’t the only district that ran into trouble. Alton and Granite City were among the districts that made the change this year to attendance centers, and the new school buildings created confusion among some parents and students.
Alton Interim Superintendent Mark Cappel said the district’s first day was “a little hectic” at the elementary schools, but corrections were made in short order.
“Friday was probably 200 percent better,” Cappel said. “We had good flow of traffic, we’ve got some good plans in place that our principals and administrators have put in place, and each day is getting better and better.”
In the days since school started, Griffin said the traffic issues in Bethalto have also improved — one parent reported to her that, from one day to the next, she was able to cut her time in half while dropping off children at four schools — and things are running more smoothly.
“It’s really hard as a brand-new superintendent to make all of your parents really angry the first couple days of school, but we felt like it was really important to honor the request of our village and police and fire,” Griffin said. “We felt like if we could really muscle through this and isolate what the issues truly were, then we could make it work. And we’ve done just that.”