Charleston County expected to have heavy back-to-school traffic rest of the week

Three-hundred sixty-one buses ran more than 800 routes getting Charleston County schoochildren where they needed to be on the first day of school, including these Laing Middle School students on Wednesday August 21, 2013. Wade Spees/Staff Buy this photo

Back-to-school traffic clogged Charleston County roads on Wednesday, and residents should expect a similar scenario for the rest of the week.

Congestion was noticeably heavier in many areas, and it was acute in Mount Pleasant. The bottleneck of parent traffic was so bad at the end of the first day that many school buses were prevented from picking up children on time.

“Day 1, 2 and 3 of every school year is not the way we judge our traffic because it is totally abnormal,” said Jeff Scott, the district’s director of security and emergency management.

The problem was pronounced near the state’s biggest high school, Wando High. School administrators called and e-mailed parents about the traffic, and parents were encouraged to arrive early or carpool.

“It’s just common knowledge that if you have 3,500 students or more (such as Wando), it’s going to create problems,” said school Superintendent Nancy McGinley.

At other schools, such as the Wando South campus that houses Jennie Moore Elementary and Laing Middle, parents were asked to use buses or not arrive too early for the afternoon pick-ups.

District officials expected the traffic to settle down by next week as more parents put their children on school buses. Scott said he couldn’t make permanent adjustments until next week when traffic would be more normal. Still, Mount Pleasant police planned to make some tweaks this week to help traffic flow.

Traffic and bus delays aside, McGinley said the first day went well. She spent some of the day in three schools that re-opened in new buildings; Charleston Progressive, Buist and Memminger Elementary were rebuilt because of seismic instability in their previous buildings.

McGinley said teachers and parents seemed happier about the new surroundings than students.

“They remember the old schools,” she said. “People were overjoyed with the professional setting. I cannot stop smiling.”

She said she appreciated the nonstop work to build and open the schools in three years.

Enrollment figures and first day absences weren’t available Wednesday. Officials expected to have those numbers by Friday.

Other issues that arose Wednesday were typical, such as maintenance needs for buildings. Some schools saw an influx of new students enroll, and the district will have to add or shift teachers in some areas, such as Laing Middle, she said.

Parents who have transportation questions or concerns are encouraged to call Durham’s hotline: 725-3170. Parents who have any other question or concern should call the school district’s hotline at 937-6366.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.

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