When the new school year began last week, Hilton Head Island High School's dismissal time was already about an hour later than last year.
Beginning Friday, the school will delay it another six minutes.
Although it may seem inconsequential, district and school officials say the extra time will make a world of difference when it comes to traffic on the Hilton Head school campus.
"I think that six minutes is going to help so much," said Jill McAden, principal of Hilton Head Island Elementary School, which sits across the street from the high school. "It will be gold."
The high school's new schedule -- starting class at 8:35 a.m. and getting out at 3:29 p.m. -- created only a nine-minute window separating the high school and elementary school dismissal times, compared to an hour in previous years.
That change has led to traffic congestion over the past week, with some elementary students waiting as long as 40 minutes to be picked up because their parents can't reach them, McAden said.
After monitoring traffic on the campus every day since school began Aug. 18, the Beaufort County School District has determined that less than 10 minutes of separation between the schools' dismissal times is not enough.
Traffic congestion was improving slightly, head of student services Gregory McCord said, but it's still taking too long for parents and students to get off campus.
"Between the elementary and the high school, we probably have about 700 (parents picking up their students), and that really slows down traffic," McCord said. "So we are really looking forward to seeing how the (delayed dismissal) goes on Friday."
High school principal Amanda O'Nan hopes the new 3:35 p.m. bell will give the first wave of parents picking up their elementary students time to clear off the campus before the high school dismisses.
"If it keeps kids safe and alleviates traffic, then let's give it a try," she said. "I definitely think that that small amount of time can make a difference, but time will obviously tell."
The district has also worked with the middle school, which starts and dismisses an hour earlier, to streamline its bus transportation so those buses can return in time to pick up and drop off the elementary students, McCord said. After the middle school buses run their routes in the morning and afternoon, the same buses are used for the elementary school.
McAden said some of those buses weren't finishing their earlier routes fast enough, or were getting stuck in the traffic, causing them to arrive late to the elementary school.
But the district has worked with the schools and bus company Durham School Services to make sure students get out to the buses on time and are prepared to get off the buses at their stops, McCord said. That should make the routes more efficient and faster, he added.
"There is no easy answer for a transportation fix," he said. "But I do think it has improved since day one and will continue to improve each day."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
- Hilton Head schools face traffic troubles on first day of school, August 18, 2014
- Later start for Hilton Head High students deemed success, so far, August 22, 2014
- Hilton Head High to have later start time next school year, March 8, 2014
- School district changes bus routes, adds GPS tracking, August 10, 2014
- Hilton Head High stars in 'NBC Nightly News' segment: Show does story about high school's new later start time experiment, August 25, 2014