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First full day at new GCHS a test for students, staff

Published 8/28/2012 in Special Sections : GCHS

Editors' Note: This article originally was published in the Aug. 24, 2012, editon of The Telegram.

BY RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

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Brad Nading/ Telegram A group of Garden City High School students get condiments for their food on the first day of closed lunch period as others go through the lines in the cafeteria.

Brad Nading/ Telegram A group of Garden City High School students get condiments for their food on the first day of closed lunch period as others go through the lines in the cafeteria.

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Brad Nading/TelegramA group of Garden City High School students make their way out of the commons area and back to the classrooms Thursday after one of the lunch periods. GCHS has a closed lunch period this year, where all students stay in the building during lunch.

Brad Nading/TelegramA group of Garden City High School students make their way out of the commons area and back to the classrooms Thursday after one of the lunch periods. GCHS has a closed lunch period this year, where all students stay in the building during lunch.

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Becky Malewitz/ TelegramStudents commute between classes on Thursday.

Becky Malewitz/ TelegramStudents commute between classes on Thursday.

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Becky Malewitz/ TelegramTraffic and pedestrians try to exit the GCHS parking lot onto Mary Street at the end of the first day of school.

Becky Malewitz/ TelegramTraffic and pedestrians try to exit the GCHS parking lot onto Mary Street at the end of the first day of school.

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Becky Malewitz/ TelegramTraffic from Garden City High School lines up at the stop light on Mary Street at the end of the first full day of school.

Becky Malewitz/ TelegramTraffic from Garden City High School lines up at the stop light on Mary Street at the end of the first full day of school.

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Brad Nading/TelegramGarden City High School teacher John Ford, center, shows freshmen where the office is for the freshman academy Wednesday during the first day of school.

Brad Nading/TelegramGarden City High School teacher John Ford, center, shows freshmen where the office is for the freshman academy Wednesday during the first day of school.

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Brad Nading/Telegram A portion of the Garden City High School commons area is shown on the first day during one of the lunch periods at the school. GCHS has a closed lunch hour this year.

Brad Nading/Telegram A portion of the Garden City High School commons area is shown on the first day during one of the lunch periods at the school. GCHS has a closed lunch hour this year.

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Becky Malewitz/ Telegram Students eat lunch on the first full day of the school year.

Becky Malewitz/ Telegram Students eat lunch on the first full day of the school year.

Some didn't like the food, others didn't like the closed lunch hour and many didn't like the traffic Thursday morning and afternoon.

But a lot of students at Garden City High School said they liked the building.

Thursday marked the first day of full classes at the new facility at 2720 Buffalo Way Blvd.

The first day of classes also meant the first day of observing the traffic flow on Mary Street and around the school grounds for city workers, Garden City police officers and school officials.

James Mireles, high school principal, said the morning traffic went smoothly.

At times in the morning, the traffic was backed up a ways to the west on Mary Street.

Mireles said some of that was issues with city traffic light timing and also driver error. Two lanes turn left into GCHS, and most students and parents just used one lane.

"Once people learn that there are two lanes that go left into the drive, it will go faster," he said.

Mireles said the traffic after school was congested a bit longer than he predicted. He cited two reasons for that.

"Students are going to learn that using that other lane to go towards the bypass may be quicker for them. Most tried to turn right back towards the west," he said.

The other reason traffic became congested after school Thursday was because parents seemed to only use one lot to pick up students. The lot they used was the visitor lot in front, to the south of the school.

"Parents and students need to communicate," Mireles said, adding that parents can pick up students from a number of parking lots, not just the one in front.

"It's a training issue. Once we tweak those, it will get easier and will be faster to unload the building," he said.

To address these issues, city public works personnel, Garden City police and GCHS officials will meet every day after school.

Sam Curran, director of public works for the city, said it may take the public about four to five days to learn how to get around the school, both entering the school grounds and dealing with traffic near the facility.

"We're studying traffic patterns to tell what issues we have. From there, we'll make decisions on what needs to be done," he said.

Curran said the traffic Thursday morning started to pick up around 7:30 a.m., and most students were parked and in the building by 8:15 a.m. "People just need to know to build that 20 or 30 minutes into their schedules," Curran said.

Curran said the flow of traffic in the morning also will be smoother once drivers start using both left turn lanes.

Once the students were inside the building Thursday, they were not allowed to leave to go out to their cars in the parking lot or to leave for lunch. This is the first year with both of those policies. Mireles cited student safety and "skipping" as reasons for both.

Valencia Gutierrez, 17, a senior, said she doesn't like having a closed lunch after being able to leave the old campus. She also said she wasn't fond of the cafeteria food.

"I didn't eat any of it today," she said.

Gutierrez said she feels locked up.

"In a way, it feels like a prison," she said.

Alexa Shaffer, 17, a senior, said she didn't like having a closed lunch either.

"It sucks. We've known open lunch all of high school. I really don't know what to think," she said.

Shaffer also said she wasn't fond of the lunch options Thursday. She chose a salad.

"They are healthier, though," she said.

Mireles said lunch seemed to go smoothly, with four shifts. Freshman lunch took longer than expected, and Mireles said they may adjust the schedule or send some freshmen to other lunch periods.

Steve Nordby, USD 457's coordinator of secondary education, who observed the lunch lines, said it took students a long time Thursday, but he added that they weren't used to the new cafeteria or more lunch options.

"They have a lot of choices, more food and more seating. It may just take a little longer this week," he said.

Nordby said the popular place to sit was "the point," which is the pointed, glass section of the commons area that faces south.

Ricky Carrasco, 17, a senior, was enthusiastic about the first day of school.

He said in the morning that it only took him about five minutes to get into the school, but he left home early to get there. Carrasco said he's impressed with the building.

"It's gorgeous. It's a beautiful school. I think it's probably the best high school in the state. I'm really excited about sports, academics and even my math class," he said.

The Garden City Police Department reported one non-injury accident at Mary Street and Henderson Drive on Wednesday, a day when only freshmen attended school for a half-day. The crash occurred at 11:51 a.m., after freshmen orientation.

Garden City police Sgt. Michael Reagle reported there were no accidents Thursday.

"Backed-up traffic was an issue, and city personnel were in the area monitoring the situation to determine traffic light timing to help reduce future problems," he said.

Mireles said Thursday was a good start at the new high school, with getting used to traffic, a closed lunch and a new building.

"I would give us a B, or a B+. We did great, but there's room for improvement," he said.

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