The Smyrna School District will be starting a project Monday, July 8 that will improve the parking at Sunnyside Elementary.

The project was approved at the April 17 Smyrna Board of Education meeting. The school board approved the bid by American Infrastructure. The project costs $210,000 and includes monies from the Community Transportation Fund.

Smyrna School District Superintendent Debbie Wicks said the project is being done to alleviate parking issues at the school.

"We don't have town parking around Sunnyside. Smyrna Elementary and Clayton Elementary have town parking so the overflow can go to the town," Wicks said.

North Smyrna Elementary also has space for overflow parking because of the big field behind the school and the town park across the street.

"Sunnyside does not have that," Wicks said. "So looking at the layout, we could have some more parking spots by switching. The buses in the back are going to be in the front, and the car riders are going to be in the back."

The issues occur when students are dropped off and picked up from school. Wicks said Sunnyside Elementary first started having issues with parking the third year the school was open. There were about 100 choice students so the school, which has a capacity of 600 students, was pretty full. Wicks said the first day of school there were a lot of families dropping their children off at the same time because everyone wanted to get pictures.

"We had total gridlock. No one could get in or out," Wicks said.

The district knew changes would need to be made, Wicks said, so the district had architects look into the problem as there were certain technicalities to address such as space needed for buses to turn and DNREC requirements with drainage.

In the meantime, Wicks and a few other administrators have had to go to Sunnyside at the beginning of each school year to work in front of the school until everybody was used to how the traffic flowed.

The construction of the project is expected to take four weeks. During that time, Wicks said there will be signs directing where drivers should park as the project progresses. Parking will be based on where the construction is being done.

Wicks said Smyrna Elementary also has difficulties with car riders even though the school is in town because drivers get jammed up during drop off and pick up times. The district plans to address those issues eventually.

"The only thing we're doing right now is to address parking at Sunnyside to be able to get more cars in there and to enlarge the parking and then make the car rider drop off and pick up a bigger area to go around in," Wicks said.

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