Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 21, 2012

Traffic woes worst startup problems for I-35; officials trying policy for phones

TAHLEQUAH — Administrators for the Tahlequah school district reported a smooth startup to the new academic year when the Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education met Monday evening.

Elementary principals noted quicker drop-off and pickup processes, while the middle and high school reports highlighted efficient lunchroom experiences and a 30-day experiment on student cell phone use on campus.

Superintendent Lisa Presley said the district anticipated the rezoning would create a few problems such as with traffic issues at Heritage Elementary School, but overall, the first few days of school have gone as well as can be expected.

“The traffic at Heritage on the first day was horrendous. We can’t say anything else,” Presley said. “I have to thank Tahlequah city. They are there every day, directing traffic in the morning. I watched every morning last week. By the second day, it was smooth sailing.”

Presley said the district had a plan in place for traffic.

“We met – I probably wore them out meeting about traffic, but ... it’s gone very well at the middle school and high school,” she said. “I think it was executed as we thought it was going to be. We knew Heritage was going to be a problem. We thought Willis Road was going to be open, and to our surprise and everyone else’s, it wasn’t.”

Presley noted a change in the pick-up plan at Heritage Elementary that will be go into effect this Wednesday.

“This week we will open up the traffic in the afternoon so parents can go out the bus loop,” she said. “Once Willis Road is open, we think that will quicken the traffic exiting in the afternoon. Once ... the traffic light is ready at Southridge, it will go a lot smoother.”

Tahlequah High School Principal Jeff Thorne said he informed students during grade-level assemblies that a 30-day experiment with cell phone use will be conducted to measure the students; ability to use technology responsibly.

“The kinds of things they’re exposed to, we have to embrace and get in front of that curve. We have to become the educators for the future,” he said. “You can’t just stand up and teach and ask questions and tell them what they need to know. We’ve got to go places where learning is problem-solving. I’m reaching out a little bit in technology.”

He said that at a model school conference, participants urged school administrators to stop fighting technology.

“[Many of] these kids are carrying smartphones in their pocket ... that exceeds the capacity of the computer on their desk,” Thorne said. “Why are we buying them computers and making computer labs when they’re carrying one in their hand? So we’re going to try to teach them responsibility for their electronic media.”

Thorne said “free zones” have been set up to allow students to text or listen to messages between classes and during the lunch hour to help curb the temptation to violate classroom rules and take their cell phones out during class to check  messages.

“For the next 30 days, we’ll watch how the kids act. They need to know how to handle technology responsibly,” said Thorne. “I’m going to give them the opportunity to show us that.”


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