PLYMOUTH - Wednesday was the first day of school and the beginning of the new student drop-off system at Eli Terry Jr. Middle School.
Over the summer the town created a rear traffic entrance at the school, allowing parents to drive in from Charles Street so they can drop off and pick up children without interfering with the buses in front of the school. School officials had feared the old system of having all vehicles and pedestrians come in the front entrance was a hazard.
Superintendent Martin Semmel said the district surveyed middle school students and found that about 50 expected to be dropped off by their parents instead of walking or taking a bus this year.
“So 50 kids, and 50 cars, over the course of a 20 minute drop-off, depending on when they show up, shouldn’t be too congested,” said Semmel, who was helping to direct traffic at the new entrance Wednesday morning.
The administrative team worked hard to get the word out to parents over the summer, including emailing them a map of the new entrance, he said.
Parents were directed to drive in via Charles, go around a short loop, stop in a designated spot to let out passengers, then drive out. Assistant Principal Mark Hedrick acted as a crossing guard to direct the kids onto a sidewalk, where they walked to a nearby crosswalk to enter the school at a door marked with blue and white Mylar balloons.
A yellow cable was strung across a driveway leading to the front parking lot to prevent drivers from trying to exit that way, or vehicles coming in the front entrance trying to exit out the back.
Semmel said the police department will have officers stationed on nearby Hillside Avenue mornings and afternoons for the next few weeks. “So if someone who maybe doesn’t have kids coming to Eli Terry is driving down Hillside and they will realize they might need to slow down,” he said.
As for the nearby North Main Street Bridge being closed temporarily for repairs, he said it’s not a problem. “It’s been closed since mid-June so the bus company has made sure their routes could accommodate going around that area, and the parents are know about it too.”
Principal Angela Suffridge was helping to direct traffic at the front entrance, allowing staff members to drive in and directing parents to go around to the back. “It’s 7:28 and so far we’ve only had to remind about four parents, so the word got out,” she said.
Suffridge said there is an extra large sixth-grade class entering Eli Terry this year - 137 students out of a total 348 student population.
Despite uncertainty over how much state aid the district will receive this year, “we’re all going to do the best that we can, there are going to be some larger classes but we have the support in place, so we’re excited, and we’re ready,” she said.
“Our theme this year, consistent with last year, is ‘building relationships and connections to one another,’ and teaching students how things work at the school so they can be successful,” she added.
Suffridge wasn’t the only one ready for the start of school. Sixth-graders Chris Goff and Daniel Szoldra both said they were excited to be at their new school, which they had already visited at an open house.
“I’m just standing outside of it and I’m already having fun,” agreed fellow sixth-grader Andrew Hawes. “Just standing out here waiting with my friends is fun!”
As a veteran Eli Terry student going into eighth grade, Hailey Sears said she likes that students don’t have to go to class until 8 a.m., starting their school day in their Family group.
“It’s like home room, and it’s fun because most of your friends are in it,” she said.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.