Traffic is moving, albeit slowly, at Clearwater Fundamental Middle School at 1660 Palmetto St.
On Thursday, cars were rolling freely through the pickup line by 3:15 p.m. — just a half hour after dismissal and a far cry from the first day of school Tuesday when traffic backed up on Long Road all the way to Keene Road until after 4 p.m.
"We knew, with so many new families coming for the first time to this location that it would take a few days to get it straight,'' said David Rosenberger, who became principal at the new fundamental school after the merger of his former school, Coachman Fundamental, and Kennedy Middle School.
There are no buses for fundamental schools. Instead, parents agree to provide transportation, which this week became a bit dicey.
"First of all, I was concerned because kids and cars never mix," Rosenberger said. "And put that with the student body which has increased from 550 to 860.
"It takes awhile, and both the children and their parents, had to come and see what it was like.''
The system works like this: Parents pull into a lot with a series of 14 parking lanes while the students keep an eye out for their ride.
Teachers dressed in bright orange vests dismiss students in groups and wave the cars to move forward. If a parent has not picked up the child in the allotted time (about three to five minutes), the parent must drive around to the back of the line and start again.
The memory of the first day of school, when it took about 60 minutes to pick up her son, Brandon, still was fresh on Janel Shavers' mind. And so on Thursday, the Largo mom made sure to be in the car line before the afternoon bell rang at 2:45 p.m.
"I am concerned for the neighborhood most of all. We were blocking their driveways,'' she said.
Within 15 minutes of the afternoon dismissal, cars were rolling through. And as the clock crept toward 3:30 p.m., the official end of pickup time, the wait was even shorter.
For the Hackett family of Dunedin, the success of after-school pickup is a team effort. When it came time to be picked up by her mother, sixth-grader Josephine Hackett knew the rules. Unfortunately, her parent needed some help.
At 3:22 p.m., the traffic moved swiftly. The 11-year-old watched her mom roll past the designated pickup lane.
"What is she doing?'' Josephine said. "She forgot to get into the stop lane.''
The daughter waved her mom away while she hollered to her.
"You have to go around again," she said. "You can't stop here at the curb.''
Lynn Hackett smiled from behind the wheel and followed her daughter's directions.
"The traffic was so much easier than the first two days,'' Lynn Hackett said. "Everybody should know that the schools really do care, and it takes a few days to get things straight.''
Reach Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163.