RICHMOND — The redesigned entrance at Richmond Elementary School was put to the test Tuesday morning, as nearly 400 students arrived for the first day of school. 

Children who were driven to school in private cars disembarked in a designated areas on one side of the parking lot and those who use school buses got out next to a new sidewalk in front of the school. The idea is to keep buses and cars from mingling.

Designed by Robinson Green Beretta Architects and built by the D’Ambra Construction Company of Coventry, the project cost $631,000, more than half of which was covered by a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Education. Work began when classes ended last June and was completed in August, on schedule.

Sharon Martin, who has been Principal of the 84-year-old school for eight years, said the new entrance had been a long time coming.

“Year after year, we have wrestled with the buses mixing with cars and we are a big school and it has really impacted our arrival procedures tremendously, from buses in the way of cars, cars in the way of buses,” she said. “This will provide the opportunity for the buses to arrive, to unload and to leave without coming into contact with cars.”

Martin said she had prepared parents in advance for the changes.

“I was very clear with parents and guardians in my most recent communication. I do a weekly update on our web page and I listed very clearly all those arrival and dismissal steps. This will be posted as well on our website throughout the year, should I need to remind families about that,” she said.

Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci, who had started his day welcoming students at the main Chariho campus, waited near the main Richmond school entrance for students to arrive. 

“I’ve been on the Chariho campus for the arrival already,” Those kids are all in and productively busy,” he said. “Now I’m going to check out the new arrival procedure. It looks like it belongs here.”

Richmond Police Chief Elwood Johnson, who likes to be on hand every year to greet the children on their first day of school, said the new bus and car loops were a significant safety improvement.

“This is a huge improvement with the dedicated entrance for the buses, keeping traffic from commingling with parents who are dropping off on the other side,” he said. “I expect this is going to be great. I think it’s really going to enhance the safety of people coming and going.”

Julie Mowbray, who has been driving a bus to Richmond School for 14 years, said she was hoping the new loop would also make it easier for her to pull out of the school driveway after dropping off the children.

“Hopefully, getting out is going to be easier,” she said. “Going out that exit was very difficult.”

The morning was not without some tears, including a few shed by parents seeing their children off for the first time. Kelly-Lynne Miller watched her daughter, Bailey, walk through the school door with the kindergarten class.

“She’s my first,” she said, dabbing her eyes. “She’s so excited. She’s thrilled to go in.”


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