MORGAN -- Traffic congestion before school hours at Morgan Elementary School has eased, and not because of a new sign or bus route. Instead, a handful of dedicated fifth-graders known as the Courtesy Patrol gets the credit.
Morgan Elementary Principal Tim Wolff said the patrol, formed in late October, is "an exciting success" that has dramatically increased student safety.
The patrol was formed in response to two issues the school was struggling to handle, he said.
First, student drop-off at the front of the school was unorganized, creating an unsafe environment.
"Safety is paramount on any school campus but especially important for an elementary campus," Wolff said.
"Often, elementary students are just gaining the maturity and judgment to maneuver through traffic, and simple mistakes can be catastrophic."
With 3-year-old preschool students in the mix, safety is of utmost importance, Wolff said.
By directing sets of five cars at a time to a drop-off location, the patrol is dramatically reducing the wait time for parent drivers, Wolff said.
"We have found that the reduced wait time is now also increasing the number of students who stay in their cars instead of unloading in the street and walking through traffic," he said.
"Our community appreciates the efficiency of the process but, even more, the exemplary attitude of our students."
The second issue the patrol addresses is giving students a friendly start to their day.
"Too many students were slipping through the hallways and making it all the way to class without a warm welcome," Wolff said.
"We feel it is essential to specifically focus on and develop the comfort zone all students need from their school. A peer opening the car door, holding the school door and saying, 'Good morning, welcome to school,' is a great way for anyone to start their day."
The experience benefits the student body at large, but also benefits the students doing the patrolling.
"I like helping out and making parents happy," said Rylee Wilkerson, 11. "It helps the school and makes the students happy to get to school without falling."
Rylee said the hardest part of being on the patrol is the freezing temperatures.
His mother, Shirlee, said Rylee takes his "job" very seriously and stresses out if he is going to be late.
Each morning, the fifth-graders meet in a conference room to discuss unique needs they must be aware of that day.
Standing in specifically marked areas, the patrol members open car doors, assist students out of the car, extend a welcome and even greet the parent drivers.
Another patrol member -- often the principal himself -- is stationed at the school's front door for an additional morning greeting.
"We serve no matter the weather and stay until the job is done," Wolff said.
Students are volunteers who have received parental permission and are able to arrive early to school each day. Wolff said he has seen similar patrols in schools he has worked at in Texas.
The endeavor has been so successful in Morgan that Wolff plans to soon expand the patrol to include dismissal time and the greeting of students who ride the bus.