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Torch relay spurs shorter classes

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The Jordan School District will dismiss its 81 schools early Feb. 8 to avoid Olympic-size traffic headaches when the torch relay winds through the south end of the Salt Lake Valley.

A few other area schools will follow in the hours leading up to opening ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Games.

The torch relay is scheduled to wind through Jordan District boundaries between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. ? the same time period most schools end classes.

Some roads will be closed to accommodate perhaps thousands of spectators, school officials said Tuesday.

Closed roads would present too many barriers for tightly scheduled school buses.

"We are equally concerned about the safety of students walking home, especially if their normal walking route is altered due to road closures," Jordan Superintendent Barry Newbold said.

"We also want families to have the option of attending the Olympic torch relay without school conflicts."

The torch is expected to enter district boundaries at 6600 South and Redwood Road and proceed south on Redwood to 12600 South, where it will turn east to 1300 East, the district reported. The torch will then be run north on 1300 East to 9400 South and then west to 700 East.

In all, that's too many main arteries for buses to avoid, say district officials.

All afternoon sessions will be canceled at the Jordan Applied Technology Center's Sandy and West Jordan campuses. So will afternoon kindergarten classes.

Morning kindergartners will ride home on buses as usual. Lunch will be served in all schools.

Details are available online at www.jordandistrict.org.

"We wish we could have given parents more notice" on the early dismissals, district spokeswoman Melinda Colton said. "But (the Salt Lake Organizing Committee) did not release (relay routes) until about two weeks out for security reasons."

Other schools also will sound their bells at unusual times Feb. 8. Salt Lake City's East High School will dismiss students early to make room for traffic headed to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the opening ceremonies, district spokesman Jason Olsen said.

Redwood Elementary in Granite District will start school at 10 a.m., about one hour late, to make way for a relay staging area, district spokeswoman Michele Bartmess said.

Olympic sponsors and relay organizers will use the campus for parking, restrooms and other amenities.

Other schools along the torch route are invited to step outside and soak in the fanfare, Bartmess said.

During the Games, Granite's Stansbury and Westbrook elementaries will dismiss early on six days to avoid traffic in and out of the E Center and speedskating oval in Kearns, respectively, Bartmess said. Fox Hills Elementary on Tuesday asked to do the same.

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com