Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

First Day of School Gets an A; Construction Slows Traffic at Pine Forest

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

First Day of School Gets an A; Construction Slows Traffic at Pine Forest

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

Denise Ahearn stood in front of a packed auditorium and asked -- with tongue in cheek -- if anyone had noticed that the road was torn up.

The audience laughed.

"I thought we'd get that out of the way first," Ahearn said during an orientation last week for parents and students at Pine Forest Elementary School on the Southside.

Sewer lines are being installed on Grant Road in front of Pine Forest, and parents and bus drivers must take a detour to reach the school.

"Whatever inconveniences and sacrifices we have to make over the next few months will be minor compared to the benefit to residents," Ahearn said.

To help direct traffic, three police officers were at Pine Forest the first week. Community volunteers, staff and parents also helped expedite access to the school.

"All of that support made a huge difference in how well things rolled out on the first day," Ahearn said, adding that traffic backup was much less than predicted and that she will send a weekly newsletter to parents updating them on changing traffic patterns.

Other Southside schools also got off to a good start, said Elaine Mann, a regional superintendent. Mann, who visited 15 schools opening day, said most seemed as if they'd been in session for weeks.

"The other thing that so impressed me is that in almost every school I could see my face reflected in the floors," said Mann, praising custodians for getting the facilities in shape.

Some faced the challenge of tidying up after construction projects. For instance, Englewood High School on Barnes Road had a courtyard drainage project and parking lot repaving that was completed just in time for opening day, Mann said.

The interior of Spring Park Elementary on Spring Park Road was repainted, while Twin Lakes Academy Middle on Point Meadows Drive went through a major repiping project. Over the summer, its staff members even moved into the adjacent Twin Lakes Academy Elementary because the middle school had no air-conditioning, returning just before school started, Mann said. Its classrooms also got a fresh coat of paint.

Districtwide, Mann said principals, teachers and other staff were in their schools Sunday night getting ready for the first day. …

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