Forced to walk 2 miles to catch the school bus?
A district plan to shorten school bus rides has created some unintended consequences for some cape coral parents. Video by fox4now.comvideo
CAPE CORAL - Catching the bus just got harder for some Cape Coral kids who now have to make a morning trek just to get to school.
A Lee County school district plan to shorten bus routes, after Fox 4 exposed painfully long bus rides, has created some unintended consequences.
13-year-old Kendall Attwood is ready to back to school. But getting there could be a problem.
"I'm scared," she said.
Kendall lives at the Cape Royal golf community. For almost a decade, neighbors say buses had no problems coming inside to pick up their kids.
But that's changing this school year.
A lengthy Fox 4 investigation exposed long bus rides and sparked an audit last year resulting in the district consolidating routes.
That's what happened at Cape Royal, where the stop has been moved to Pine Island Road - 2.5 miles away from Kendall's house.
"As a parent does it make you nervous?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant. "Absolutely," said Kendall's father Jay Attwood. "We're sick about this."
"It's unacceptable to make the children walk all the way up to the front and stand," said Attwood, who calls this a "major concern."
On the district's own Web site is a policy which states that a "reasonable walking distance" to a bus stop should not be more than 1.5 miles.
A district spokesperson says that doesn't apply to gated communities.
"Past practice may have...involved a courtesy of having the bus enter the gated community," said district spokesperson Joe Donzelli. "But it is not required. And that change was made this year."
And that change has parents upset, especially when it appears the district has three bus stops inside Cross Creek - a similar gated community in Fort Myers.
"I don't know if it's a financial decision," said Attwood. "But obviously in our minds it's a huge safety concern."
"We're going to pursue the safety of our children," he said.
The district says they are eliminating all bus stops inside gated communities in order to tighten routes and to be in compliance with school board policies, which states students living in gated communities are "required" to be picked up at the nearest public road.
This year, in an effort to tighten up routes and continue increasing efficiency, coupled with many of the communities in question asking that we remove our buses from their private, gated roads (a request we receive from many such communities each year), instances when a bus entered a gated community are being eliminated and stops on public roads near the developments are being established. According to School Board policy 7.02:
"Students living within private gated residential developments or on private roads shall be required to use a bus stop on a public road near their development. Bus stops may be established inside a "gated community" if it is determined by the Transportation Department that there are no safe locations close to the entrance or exit of such "gated community" to establish a safe school bus stop."
As transportation staff review and establish bus routes and bus stops for 2011/12, the practice of having buses drive through private, gated communities to pick up and/or drop off students was eliminated in accordance with the above School Board policy.
MATT GRANT, REPORTER