Monday, August 23, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
On the first day of school at Royal Elementary, James
Park helps his sister Susan find her room assignment.

Parents, students
beat the school
jam handily

Heavy highway traffic
from returning students
didn't materialize today

By Heather Tang


Ten-year-old Heather Davis would rather be playing with her three dogs than going to class.

But the Royal Elementary School fifth-grader said the first day of a new school year isn't all that bad.

"I get to see my friends and go to English class," Davis said. "I like to read and write and spend time in the mornings with my friends."

Christian Scott Davis, who started kindergarten today, said he was excited about going to a new school for the first time. "I like being outside and playing with my friends," said the 5-year-old.

But many parents were not as excited as their children with the first day of school. It was expected to be a heavy traffic day with the addition of 105,000 public school and University of Hawaii students to Oahu's highways.

That traffic, however, didn't materialize today, although officials caution it may occur later this week when private schools go back into session.

"We were really pleased with how well it went this morning. We heard a lot of people left very early. The morning commute started at 4 a.m. instead of the usual 5 a.m. That helped through the rest of the morning," said Marilyn Kali, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

Sheila Stineman woke her third-grade daughter, Nani Suzuki, at 6:30 a.m.

"I had big anxiety about getting her to school in the morning," Stineman said. "It was pretty hectic this morning. She didn't want to get up; she was grumbling, crying, telling me, 'I'm tired.'"

Kali credits the "Beat the School Jam" media campaign with raising awareness, but said people need to keep car-pooling, waking up early and taking mass transportation. On Wednesday, Iolani School, Mid-Pacific Institute and Lutheran High School go back into session, and on Thursday classes start up again at Punahou School and Hawaii Pacific University.

"We do expect more traffic when private schools start on Wednesday and Thursday," Kali said. "But if people continue to leave earlier and car-pool, things should be OK. But if people fall back and leave an hour later, we'll have a hard time."

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