The first day of school is an opportunity for students to show off new shoes, backpacks and even braces. But some schools showed off new traffic loops this year.
Seaside Elementary School in Garden City Beach got to show off a brand new, elongated student drop-off circle. Daisy Elementary and St. James High schools also nabbed new traffic loops this year.
The school scored a freshly paved traffic loop this month and debuted it to parents on the first day of school Thursday morning. The loop – which used to run down a short road and in front of the school – now runs around the back of the school before looping across the front and depositing parents back on Woodland Drive.
Krissy Dowling, Seaside principal, said she hasn’t heard any complaints from parents about the extended loop. Her main concern was if the buses would be able to traverse the redesigned traffic pattern efficiently.
“But all the buses are in and out already,” Dowling said around 7:25 a.m.
The recent rain has prevented crews from finishing the fencing around the loop, so crews are still in the process of fencing the playground, Dowling said.
I experienced the loop for many, many years, but I think this is going to be a big help in getting traffic off the bypass.
Janice Morreale, district 5 representative
Daisy Elementary in Loris also rebuilt their loop, mostly to add another drop off point on the other side of the school, according to Teal Harding, Horry County Schools spokeswoman.
“It’s such a rural community, so it won’t impact traffic as much as the new loop at Seaside,” Harding said.
Seaside needed an updated traffic circle because parents were backed up on U.S. 17 Bypass waiting to turn into the school, Harding said. Since the S.C. Department of Transportation determined a light was not feasible at the intersection, the district decided to elongate the loop.
“We had to do what we could to ease that traffic,” Harding said.
Before the extended traffic loop, parents would wait in line for up to an hour to pick up their children from school, according to Connie Bennett, mother of three Seaside students.
“That’s why I stopped picking them up; they take the bus home now,” she said.
Her husband Orrin Bennett said the smaller loop never bothered him, but he thought the increased space should help clear some traffic off U.S. 17 Bypass during rush hours.
“If [the school] came up with this plan, it should work,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
Janice Morreale, Horry County Board of Education member and representative of district 5, said the new loop will be a good thing.
Morreale was helping school staff open car doors Thursday morning and hadn’t heard any complaints about the loop. She experienced the smaller traffic circle when her two children attended Seaside and knows the dangers of the bypass backup every school day.
“You’re going to be able to stack so many more cars in the loop and it’s going to be a big help getting traffic off the highway,” Morreale said. “It was just so dangerous with all those cars.”
You can view a detailed map of the new traffic loop here.
Many parents chose to park in a grass lot beside the school and walk their children into class on the first day, but Jason Adams drove around the loop before dropping off his first-grader Haleigh.
Adams said the new loop would help drag traffic off the highway and prevent parents from “sitting and waiting” as long, unlike the old traffic pattern. The increased length and added space should improve school traffic, he said, but it won’t help him miss his daughter any less.
“I dropped her off and she was so excited,” Adams said. “I was almost about to cry and she was like, ‘OK, bye dad!’”
Claire Byun: 626-0381, @Claire_TSN