Despite blocked rail crossings, ACS sees smooth start to school year

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Alabaster City Schools Executive Director of Pupil Services and Operations Dr. Jeff Atkins knows traffic in the city during the first day of school can be unpredictable. But on the morning of Aug. 8, the school system got thrown a curve ball.

While parents and school buses were traveling to the city’s schools, a train suffered mechanical problems and blocked crossings on Fulton Springs Road, Alabama 119 and 11th Avenue Southwest, leading to a little more stress than normal on the first day of classes. A train also snarled traffic on Shelby County 17, Atkins said.

Fortunately, the train blocking Fulton Springs and Alabama 119 was able to back up shortly after 7 a.m., and allow traffic to flow normally. As with the first few days of every school year, Atkins said the schools were lenient with check-ins to allow parents and students to get more comfortable with the morning routine.

“Except for the train, everything has been good this morning,” ACS Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said shortly before walking through all of the city’s schools with members of the city’s Board of Education. “The first day of school is a perfect opportunity to get everything smoothed out, and we expect today to be a great day.”

Parents and students didn’t seem to let the unexpected traffic issues dampen their moods for the day, even for kids arriving for their first day of kindergarten.

Creek View Elementary School kindergartener Ella Kate Vice and her mother Christy were all smiles as they prepared to enter the school, and Ella Kate already had her goals for the day lined up.

“Playing on the playground and making new friends,” Ella Kate said when asked what she was most excited about.

Fellow incoming kindergartener Josiah DuBose also had similar plans for his first day.

“I think it’s going to be good,” he said. “I’ll have a lot of new friends.”

Although Audrey Ann Alexander was starting first grade on Aug. 8, it was her first day at Creek View, as she attended kindergarten at Covenant Classical School last year.

“I’m a little nervous,” Audrey Ann said. “But I get to meet new friends.”

Blocked train crossings aside, the ACS transportation department saw a successful morning, Atkins said.

“We had 74 of our 76 buses on the road this morning, and everything went well,” Atkins said, noting two of the buses are assigned to specialized schools and won’t start transporting students until Aug. 9. “(ACS Transportation Coordinator) Jeff Nichols does a great job planning the routes every year, and we know after about three weeks the traffic patterns will smooth out.”