Students and parents arrive for the first day of classes and the reopening of Anderson Elementary School (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Students and parents arrive for the first day of classes and the reopening of Anderson Elementary School (Staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Months of planning, a strong presence by local law enforcement, the cooperation of parents and the patience of a traffic grid already congested by the closing of one of Madison’s routes from downtown to the hilltop made for about as smooth a re-opening of Anderson Elementary School Wednesday morning as anyone could expect.

“It went better than we expected and we really appreciate the cooperation of the parents. The school system really got the word out on what people could expect and what they needed to do,” said School Resources Officer John Wallace, who was at Anderson bright and early Wednesday to greet families, direct traffic and monitor the flow of private vehicles and buses dropping off children.

Traffic was the biggest hurdle of the morning, as a new one-way traffic route for parents dropping off their kids was put to the test. All morning and afternoon traffic entering Anderson’s campus is now routed one way, from Michigan Road onto Cherry Drive. Traffic exiting will take a new access road back onto Michigan. The gates connecting Cherry Drive to the rest of the surrounding neighborhood will be closed from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday from now on.

The first families started arriving well before 7 a.m. Anderson Principal David Horvath opened the doors shortly after 7 a.m., and the first bus rolled in at about 7:15. Over the next 45 minutes dozens of cars and buses and the bulk of the estimated 350 students who attend Anderson arrived, some escorted by their families and posing for pictures in front of the flagpole and other hopping off their bus and heading inside for breakfast.

One of those on hand to greet students was the building’s 97-year-old namesake, Myrwin W. Anderson, a retired longtime teacher, administrator and coach in the Madison school system who now lives in Florida. His contributions to the school are commemorated in a display case in the new wing of the elementary.

“I was here in 1964 when it was opened. I was here when it closed. And now I’m here again,” Anderson said as he smiled while greeting students and parents.

One of the parents waiting in the line of traffic was Madison Superintendent Jeff Studebaker, who was taking his daughter to school and said he wanted to “experience what the other parents experienced.”

Studebaker noted a lot of time and consideration went into the traffic plan for the school and the process remains a work in progress. However, he added that he was well pleased with how smooth the first day went.

“I think the level of cooperation you saw from everybody was great,” Studebaker said. “Everybody was courteous to each other and letting people in on Michigan Road. I don’t think we could not have expected this good of a first day. This was great.”

In addition to the School Resource Officers, there was a strong presence of law enforcement in general and Madison Mayor Damon Welch was also on hand to monitor traffic on Michigan Road near the school’s entrance at Cherry Drive. Officers monitored traffic at both the entrance and exit to Anderson and even directed traffic at the entrance during the peak rush.

“There was only 10 or 15 minutes when it was really heavy,” Studebaker said of the traffic congestion. “I think we and people just need to learn where the sweet spot is and when traffic is the hottest. I’m guessing 95 percent or better of our students had arrived by 7:50 a.m.

Wallace said with Hanging Rock Hill still closed for repairs, the traffic flow at Anderson was most likely about as bad as it is likely to get at Wednesday’s opening, a day when parents are more likely to drop off their children. He said the plan at Anderson will probably be tweaked in the future — maybe make the Cherry Drive loop from Michigan Road one-way or possibly use a three-way stop on Michigan — but he’d like to wait until after Hanging Rock Hill re-opens and see what impact that has on traffic in general.

Motorists just a few blocks south on Michigan Road actually had things worse than those going to Anderson. Michigan Road at State Street near Prince of Peace Schools was backed up south onto Michigan Hill as dozens of vehicles worked their way through that four-way stop.

“Anderson is more of a destination for students than in years past so it may have contributed slightly, but I think it was more related to Hanging Rock Hill being closed,” Wallace said. “It normally has some congestion between 7:30 and 8 a.m. but nothing like this morning.”