By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJuly 27, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- It's that time of year again, when students get their school supplies ready and strap on their backpacks as they head back to the classroom, but the 2017-18 Fort Rucker school year is unique.
Fort Rucker schools get back to business Aug. 2 with Fort Rucker Elementary School students attending the new, temporary school site, the FRES Village, and installation officials want to make sure parents are well informed, according to Vicki Gilmer, Fort Rucker schools principal.
"We are very excited for the new year," she said. "We will be opening up the FRES Village for grades three through six and parents are going to see the same quality education that they've always gotten at our schools."
While Fort Rucker Primary School will conduct business as usual, Gilmer said, the changes for the elementary school will be felt well outside the hallways of the new temporary facility.
The temporary school site, located on the corner of Andrews Avenue and Dustoff Street, is a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art facility that features a full gym, outdoor play area, media center, cafeteria and much more, just as a normal school would have, said the principal.
And with the new school year and facility comes a new set of challenges, such as getting students back into their school routines, but another challenge people will face this year is a new traffic pattern with the new facility, said Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker community police chief.
"[With the new location], this means that no children will be able to walk or ride their bikes to school, so we will have an increase in parents dropping students off or children riding the buses," he said.
With the majority of school traffic coming from on post housing, Dumais expects most people to travel down Farrell Road.
"What we want parents to do is when they come down Farrell, they should turn behind Lyster Army Health Clinic and come down Dustoff Street, so that they can use the traffic light at the corner of Dustoff and Andrews," said the police chief. "We will queue the parents' drop-off cars to the back side of the school, so if we get a backlog of cars, we're going to queue them down Dustoff so that they don't impact the traffic coming down Andrews Avenue."
During the early morning hours, traffic can become a bit heavy with around 700 vehicles entering the installation through the Enterprise Gate alone between the hours of 7-8 a.m., said Dumais. Additionally, during those hours many Soldiers are finishing up their morning physical training and utilizing Andrews Avenue as they leave the installation.
For those reasons, Dumais said, it's best for school traffic to try and avoid using Andrews Avenue to avoid congestion at the traffic light on the corner of Andrews and Dustoff. Also, if people aren't required to be in the area during those morning hours, they should avoid the area if possible, he added.
Although children will not be walking or riding bicycles to the new site, the area will be designated a school zone and motorists should obey all traffic signs and laws, and slow down accordingly, said the police chief.
"Nobody likes change, but this change is necessary," he said. "This school is going to be in place for a couple years, so the traffic patterns that we see coming in August we will see for a couple of years.
"Our biggest challenge is going to be the throughput of cars, and we will have ample patrol vehicles out there that morning to make sure the traffic flows smoothly, but we ask that if people can avoid the area, then please do, and definitely slow their speeds down when they're approaching the area," he added. "It's going to be a learning process for us all."
In addition to preparing for the new traffic patterns, Gilmer said parents should prepare their children for the new school year by adjusting their sleeping patterns, as well.
"Have the kids turn in a little earlier prior to school, so that they won't have that drag or shock when they get up early for school," she said. "Then they can strap on those wonderful attitudes and get ready for a great year of learning and growing together."