, Muskogee, OK

August 21, 2013

Hilldale school year begins

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Hilldale school officials are watching traffic and watching class size as the 2014 school year begins.

Middle School Principal Darren Riddle said traffic flowed “slowly, but safely” as parents circled to the back of the school to drop their kids off Tuesday morning for the first day of school.

The school changed its student drop-off/pick-up locations to make traffic flow safer, Riddle said. Parents now must drive around the bus parking lot and administration building to drop their kids off behind the middle school. Buses will unload and load in front of the school in a bus lane.

Riddle said traffic around the middle school should flow even more smoothly as parents get used to the alternate location.

Assistant Hilldale Superintendent Erik Puckett said the location was changed because of construction around the middle school/high school building and because of safety.

“We want to get people off Smith Ferry Road,” Puckett said.

“On Smith Ferry, when the line of cars is backed up, people go around, sometimes not legally,” Riddle said.

One parent in the traffic line rolled her window down and asked what was going on. Heather Hughart, who was dropping off her son, Trevor, said she was wondering about the police cars at the school.

The traffic changes are detailed on the district’s website, Puckett said. The website said parents coming to the middle school office before or after school are to park behind the school and enter through the gym. Between 8:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., parents may park in the lot in front of the middle school.

High school bus riders will get on and off the bus at the middle school.

Officials said school started smoothly, even with a marked enrollment increase in some grade levels.

Hilldale Elementary Principal Kair Ridenhour said Tuesday morning that 923 students were enrolled in the upper and lower elementary schools, up from 887 at the end of last year.

“That’s 36 more kids, and they’re still enrolling,” Ridenhour said.

The average class size in the elementary could be about 23 students, he said. “We’ll look after Labor day to see what decisions have to be made,” he said.

Hilldale Superintendent Dr. Kaylin Coody said officials are concerned about class sizes. She said grades one, four, nine and kindergarten “are very large.”

Coody said about 50 students were absent Tuesday. However, she said she expects a districtwide enrollment increase of 20 to 30 students.

“We’re taking a head count every day for the first five days,” she said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or