Norfolk Middle School staff stood in the school’s parking lot Thursday morning to direct cars dropping off children.
Occasionally, a driver would stop by a staff member, roll down the window and ask for directions. It's not normally a part of Norfolk Middle School’s first day of school responsibilities, but the change is due to the nearby construction.
The City of Norfolk and BX Construction announced at an open house last month that its Benjamin Avenue project was three weeks behind schedule. The construction delay directly affects Norfolk Middle School, which is located at the corner of First Street and Benjamin Avenue.
However, Norfolk Middle School is not the only NPS school that may be experiencing delays because of construction this year. Norfolk Junior High also may see traffic delays this school year. Both Norfolk Junior High and its neighbor, Christ Lutheran School, have construction projects in progress.
Jami Jo Thompson, superintendent of NPS, said at the board of education meeting Monday that the district is prepared for traffic delays.
“Maps and traffic plans have been sent to parents, but I'm sure that we will experience delays,” Thompson said.
NPS began working with BX Construction, the City of Norfolk and the Norfolk Police Division in July to make traffic plans for potential delays near Norfolk Middle School and Norfolk Junior High. The plans, which also include maps with directions, were shared with parents before the first day of school.
As a part of the Norfolk Middle School plan, parents are asked to use two entrances. One entrance is near First Street, and the other is on the western-most Benjamin Avenue lanes — near the YMCA — for dropping off and picking up students. The northern lanes on Benjamin Avenue near Norfolk Middle School are closed and cannot be used.
Students could be dropped off at either the east or west side of the Norfolk Middle School building. Parents are asked to use Georgia Avenue to exit the school parking lot.
Chuck Hughes, the Norfolk Middle School principal, and Jen Robinson, the Norfolk Junior High principal, both asked parents and drivers to remain patient and courteous with each other during potential traffic delays.
“We ask that you give yourself some extra time and encourage families to carpool if possible. We know it is an inconvenience right now but look forward to its completion in the near future,” Hughes said.
According to Robinson, Norfolk Junior High and Norfolk Middle School both worked with School Resource Officer (SRO) Brent Tietz to help create the traffic plan maps for the public. Other street officers assisted with the junior high traffic on Thursday morning.
The street officers conduct traffic selectives, in which they monitor school traffic, for all NPS schools. However, they will pay extra attention to both projects at Norfolk Junior High and Norfolk Middle School, she said.
“The first few weeks of any given school year present challenges and periods of readjustment,” Robinson said. “We will start the school year by spending time evaluating circumstances and readjust as necessary.”
Project manager Colin Karst said last month that all four lanes of Benjamin Avenue — near Norfolk Middle School — are expected to be open by the end of September.
“The city is working very, very hard putting in extra hours to get the necessary work completed as soon as possible,” Thompson said.
According to Robinson, construction projects for both Norfolk Junior High and Christ Lutheran School are expected to be finished by fall 2023.