DANVILLE — Cannon Elementary School has implemented a new traffic pattern, which changes the direction of vehicle traffic into the school.
Now, motorists must enter from Bismark Street and exit onto Main Street, making a right-hand turn only.
"It may take a while to get used to, even for our staff," Principal Kimberly Pabst said, adding people are used to turning into the school's parking lot from Main Street, which is no longer allowed.
"Once we get it down, it will make everything go more smoothly," she continued, adding the change aims to alleviate congestion and improve access to the school. "Most importantly, it will make it safer for our students."
The change was recommended by a Danville Area Transportation Study committee, which studies transportation needs in Danville and areas in southern Vermilion County. Last year, the committee used federal funding to hire consultants to gather car, bus, bike and pedestrian traffic data in and around six school zones including Cannon, identify problems and recommend improvements.
Danville school officials approved the vehicle traffic recommendation earlier this year.
"It was the one we could do without a lot of disruption and for a relatively little cost," Superintendent Mark Denman said.
Cannon School, at 1202 E. Main St., sits on the corner of Main Street, which has four driving lanes and a center turning lane, and Bismark, a side street used mainly by area residents and parents.
"We're a neighborhood school, so most of our students walk to school," Pabst said, adding crossing guards and staff help them cross busy Main Street safely.
However, a number of parents drive their children to and from school. Instead of dropping them off in private parking lots across the street, which many of them do, school officials will ask them to queue up in the driveway and along Bismark Street.
When school dismisses at 2:15 p.m., those students will line up in the gym. When parent drives up to the door, a staffer, who has radioed another staffer in the gym for the child, will place the child in the car.
"Before, students left through different doors. Once they were outside, the students walking and getting into cars weren't separated. Sometimes we would see students walk across (Main Street) to get into their car. If their parents weren't there, they would run back across the street. This will make it less chaotic, and that everyone is getting into the right car," Pabst said, adding Cannon's procedure finally will match the procedure at Danville's other elementary schools.
Pabst said walkers will still exit the school from the double doors facing Main Street, while those taking the bus to Meade Park Elementary or after-school programs will exit from the playground doors, closest to where buses line up on Bismark Street.
The traffic study also recommended other changes including creating a bus loading and unloading zone on the east side of Bismark Street, acquiring a vacant warehouse and parking lot across Bismarck Street for more school parking, and making improvements to the existing school parking lot.
Denman said the district certainly would like to move the buses out of the street traffic and provide more parking for teachers and visitors. However, he said, those projects aren't financially feasible at this time.