It's the first day of school in Richmond and Columbia counties. That means higher traffic around schools, as parents are more likely to drive their children the first few days and then rely more on school buses as they get settled into a routine.
One new spot where drivers should be extra vigilant is the historic Tubman Middle School, which was closed last school year.
The building at 1740 Walton Way reopens today as the home of the Tubman Education Center alternative program and evening school. The alternative center's day runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and the Performance Learning Center there runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Richmond County schools spokesman Louis Svehla reminded motorists to be careful anywhere there is a school or near bus stops.
"It is also important to always be alert and watch out for big, yellow buses," he said. "In addition, we do see issues every year at C.T. Walker, Langford, Lamar and Diamond Lakes just due to the nature of their locations. In addition, there will be increased traffic at Bungalow Road due to the transporting of students from Hains Elementary."
C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School is at 1301 Wrightsboro Road, near the heavily traveled Medical District and Laney-Walker corridor, and its day goes from 8:10 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. Langford Middle School is at 3019 Walton Way, just west of Bransford Road, with hours from 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Lamar-Milledge Elementary is at 970 Baker Ave., down the street from the Academy of Richmond County and on a cut-through between Walton Way and Wrightsboro Road. Its school day is from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Richmond Academy is in session from 7:35 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., so significant portions of the morning and afternoon will see heavy school traffic in the area.
Diamond Lakes Elementary is at 4153 Windsor Spring Road, just south of Tobacco Road, and its day goes from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
School traffic hot spots in Columbia County remain the Greenbrier and Lakeside schools complexes, said school system Assistant Transportation Director Shirley Doolittle.
Each of those complexes contains elementary, middle and high schools that generate a lot of traffic.
Doolittle said bus drivers hope to avoid some of the traffic hassles this school year by getting pupils on faster and departing before many of the high school students start their commutes.
A question mark for county transportation officials is the new Baker Place Elementary School. Though it neighbors Grovetown High School, Doolittle noted that elementary schools end classes an hour later than high schools, and she hopes much of the Grovetown High traffic will be cleared by the time buses leave the elementary school.
Even though the school system is opening a new school this year, Doolittle said only one new route has been added. There will be 176 bus routes in all when school starts today in Columbia County.