Joe Petrone, Moffat County School District superintendent, knows how hectic the first day of school can be.
Adding a grade and rebuilding the middle school, as well as transforming Craig Intermediate School into a preschool through fifth-grade building, will mean safe student arrival could be a concern Aug. 31 and beyond.
"There are so many changes," Petrone said. "The overriding issue is that Sandrock is now an elementary school for preschool through fifth grades, whereas before it was just for older children."
The School District has several protocols in place to keep children who walk to school safe and to improve traffic flow for the three drop-off zones.
By law, preschools are required to have a separate entrance and playground to keep the youngest children separated from the rest of the students.
A separate drop-off zone was built on the east side of Sandrock on Rose Street. Parents with a preschool student and older students should drop of their preschool child at the appropriate entrance before entering the main loop on Ninth Street.
Petrone said there will be "extraordinary" changes at the Ninth Street entrance.
For the first time, no parking will be allowed on the south side of the street, which is outside of Kum & Go.
"We really don't want children crossing the street there," Petrone said. "It's just too dangerous."
Drop-offs will be allowed on the north side of the street, but only for enough time to "kiss and go," Petrone said.
The School District also removed the crosswalk that crosses Yampa Avenue at 10th Street, meaning students who walk from the northwest of the schools will need to continue on to the one crosswalk at Ninth Street.
Also, throughout the first half of the year, parking on the north side of CMS will be closed because of construction.
The first day of school, more than 10 adults, including Petrone and other administrators, will be positioned at various places to help point students in the right direction, but cooperation of parents and drivers in the area is also important.
"It would be really helpful for parents to take a walk with children and show them their route," he said. "Even if you drive your students, just give it a go during a time when it's not busy."
Middle school parents will have that opportunity at an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday.
"We hope people will just pay attention while dropping people off," Petrone said. "It's definitely been improved, but since it's a new system and there is no signage up yet, we want people to understand the flow."
He said he hopes parents will control their speed in the drop-off zones because there are more children than in past years and many of them are younger.
"We want to keep our students safe," he said.
Petrone said staggered start times should help alleviate traffic problems.
Preschool begins at 7:45 a.m., kindergarten through fifth-grade starts at 8 a.m., and CMS starts at 8:10 a.m.
The Craig Police Department also will increase its presence in the area during the first five days of school.
"I trust the judgment of the parents," Petrone said. "I think they understand the importance of safety for all the children. And if they forget or are unaware, we'll have people there to guide them."
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, or firstname.lastname@example.org.