ST. GEORGE — Parents of students registered to attend Washington County School District’s newest intermediate school battled traffic to get to class on the first day of school, an issue that also affected other drivers trying to navigate around an intersection that is already very busy.
Washington County School District had its first day of instruction for all students older than kindergarten age Monday, and two new schools in the Little Valley and Washington Fields area welcomed students for the first time.
Washington Fields Intermediate and Crimson Cliffs High School were built to help relieve the overcrowding in Desert Hills and Sunrise Ridge Heights Intermediate caused by a rapidly growing student population, according to Steven Dunham, the Washington County School District communication and public relations director.
The district has just under 33,000 students, including preschool students, according to its latest enrollment statistics from May, and with the start of classes, there has been increased traffic throughout the county as more cars and pedestrians are out getting to and from school.
Washington Fields Intermediate was meant to take 600 students away from the over 1,200 students at Sunrise Ridge Heights. However, the school was built in an area of farmland, with the closest major intersection at South 3000 East and 1140 South. The school currently has over 800 students registered to attend, and drivers said they were experiencing heavy backups for southbound traffic before the beginning of school.
Parents reported waiting through long lines at the start and end of the school day, with southbound traffic on South 3000 East backed up for over 1 mile. While some drivers are asking for police assistance in directing traffic, others are demanding a wider roadway.
In the state of Utah, students are only eligible for bussing through the district if they live 2 miles or more away from the campus. Students who live within the 2-mile radius can bike or walk to school. However, many parents opt to drive their students to the school during the first week, especially in the younger grades.
“Parents just want to drive their kids,” Dunham said. “We just ask people to be patient for those first several days because they (parents) want to have those special moments with their kids.”
Dunham said the delays at Washington Fields Intermediate are to be expected and that parents will experience new traffic patterns and increased traffic during the first week, but he added that he expects it to fade off as the school year progresses.
“Those things always get worked out after the first few days,” he said. “It’s always a bit of a hassle in the beginning.”
To help alleviate traffic, the St. George Police Department created a temporary all-way stop in anticipation of a new traffic light at the intersection in question.
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