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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Schools reopening so drive carefully

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

State officials are asking drivers to use extra caution this week as public school students throughout the state return to the classroom.

While the opening of hundreds of public schools in Hawai'i in the coming days isn't expected to produce any serious traffic problems, safety officials say drivers still need to take care and allow for extra driving time during the morning rush hour.

"The residential streets, especially, are going to be busier, and we're advising people to watch out for children crossing the street on their way to school," said Scott Ishikawa, state Transportation Department spokesman.

Children attending public schools usually do so in neighborhoods near their homes. That means they don't create the same sort of islandwide traffic congestion that likely will occur next month when an estimated 50,000 college and private school students hit the highways and freeways at the same time to get to class, Ishikawa said.

"The real traffic jam starts Aug. 21, when the University of Hawai'i, community colleges and several big private schools all begin on the same day," he said.

The state is planning to spend about $50,000 on radio advertisements before that date to remind drivers to take the usual back-to-school traffic precautions: leave early, consider carpooling or take the bus.

Even so, Ishikawa said, there may be some problem areas around certain public schools this week.

"The worst might be in places where schools are located near highway on-ramps or off-ramps," Ishikawa said. "If you're driving past one of those schools, you may want to allow a little extra time getting to work."

The crunch in crowded areas likely will come between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., he said.

"We definitely have to get up earlier and leave earlier," said Arlene Nishimura of Liliha, a guidance and health teacher at Farrington High School who plans to start 45 minutes earlier on Thursday to get her two children off to school. Her 5-year-old son Nicolas is starting first grade at Kapalama Elementary and her daughter Erin, 3, is at Pali Preschool.

"I want to get my son on campus and find out what room he'll be in," Nishimura said. "And I want him to eat breakfast at school and they start serving at 7:20. I won't have time to make breakfast for them."

Staff writer Rod Ohira contributed to this report.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com.