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Students return to classes in realigned Dixon schools

DIXON – While some students might have dreaded the first day of school, Mariam Sohail, a fifth-grader at Madison Elementary School, enjoyed it.

"I'm happy to be back in school," 7-year-old Mariam said. "I want to meet new people, and I want to see my friends again."

Wednesday was the first day of school for students and staff in the Dixon School District.

With the closure of Lincoln Elementary School, second- and third-grade students were moved to Jefferson Elementary School.

Fourth- and fifth-grade students were moved to Madison Elementary School – which is under the same roof as Reagan Middle School.

In addition, pre-kindergarten students were moved from Madison Elementary School to Washington Elementary School – the same school where they will attend kindergarten and first grade.

Last year, the two schools had 700 students between them. This year, there are 987 students.

Joseph Sagel, principal of Madison Elementary School, said the Reagan/Madison building has a maximum capacity of about 1,400 students.

Because of the extra space, Sagel said, students have plenty of room.

"I've been asked if the kids will be jammed into the classrooms," said Sagel, who was the principal at Jefferson Elementary School before coming to Madison this year. "I actually have more physical space at my disposal at Madison than I did at Jefferson."

Fourth-grade students have their own wing in the school, which was occupied by pre-kindergarten last year. Fifth-grade students are also housed in their own wing in the building, which is where sixth grade was last year.

The sixth-graders are now housed in Reagan Middle School, along with the seventh- and eighth-graders.

"It's not as cluttered as people may think," Sagel said. "It's nice to know over the long term, there is room to grow."

Esther Whitcombe, a fourth-grader at Madison, said she was looking forward to the school year.

"I was not nervous at all to come to school today," she said. "I'm looking forward to getting to know new people."

At Reagan Middle School, Principal Andrew Bullock said things went pretty smoothly on the first day.

"Aside from a few late buses, it was pretty smooth," he said. "Kids got organized, and they adapted pretty well in the new locations."

Click here to see the new traffic pattern at Reagan Middle School.

Now that sixth-graders are housed with seventh- and eighth-graders, Bullock said, students are in a more concentrated area.

"Last year, we were able to spread things out across the entire building," he said. "This also cuts down on the travel time between classes for some of the students."

Bullock also said younger students would probably never interact at school with older kids.

"With the exception of arrival and dismissal time, during the course of the day, it's highly unlikely they will cross paths," Bullock said. "Both schools will use the same cafeteria, but the Reagan students have their lunch period first, and the Madison students use it later in the morning."

Because of the increased number of students, new traffic patterns have been established outside the building.

The eastbound lane in the 600 block of Division Street is now one-way, and diagonal parking stalls have been created.

A new stop sign has been installed at the exit of the school for eastbound traffic on Division Street. White arrows are painted to guide parents on the road that winds around the school.

"It was really busy, and we had a lot of cars [Wednesday morning], but things went smooth overall," Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss said. "We feel we have created the best traffic flow situation with the highest student safety."

Langloss said it's typical to see more cars on the first day of school, especially in the morning.

"We see more parents dropping their kids off on the first couple days of school, and those days are usually the busiest," he said.

Things were completely different after school when, Langloss said, there was much less congestion.

"Traffic was very light, and things cleared out quickly in the afternoon," he said.

Additional officers will be assigned to the school for the remainder of the week. 

"At the end of the week, we will decide if we need to be here next week," Langloss said.

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