Gators near school bus stop has students and parents worried

Posted at 10:53 AM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 07:39:47-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Parents have been contacting Fox 4 with concerns that students are being picked up at a bus stop just feet away from a pond containing alligators.

The bus stop in question in on Bernwood Place Drive just off Six Mile Cypress in Fort Myers.

Sharon Allen says she's seen multiple alligators swimming feet away from her Grandson's bus stop every morning.  "It's scary," Allen said. "Children get picked up here while it's still dark out. If there's a gator on the grass they might not be able to tell."

Residents of a nearby apartment complex say warning signs for the alligators were posted in June, shortly after the tragedy at Disney that killed a toddler.

Allen says she reached out to the Lee County School District for weeks wanting the stop moved closer to the gate to prevent a tragedy.  "I kept calling over and over and over again. It felt like they didn't even care," she said.

Stacey Shiam is another parent who says has been calling the district. She says until something changes she'll be waiting at the designated stop with her back to the road and eyes glued to the lake.

"The buses come from that way, but we face this way so we can see if there's a gator coming," she said.

Four In Your Corner spent the morning at the bus stop and watched Lee County buses pick up students just feet away from the sign warning gators are in the water.

About an hour later, a school district car pulled up across the street from the stop.  The Transportation Director tells Four In Your Corner off camera that students have been waiting at the wrong bus stop all along. She said if drivers see students waiting in a group,  then they'll more than likely stop and pick them up where the group is waiting. She said students should be waiting at the other flag pole closer to the apartment's gate.

Despite this response, Allen says proof is on the paper, showing Four In Your Corner the bus information sheet she received at open house telling parents the designated bus stop is at Bernwood Place Dr. And Bernwood Place Lane at the flag poles, feet away from the lake.

Below is the response from the District:

Our bus safety team visited Bernwood Trace apartments yesterday and observed a gator about 2 feet in length.  It was in a pond on private property about 100 feet away from our assigned bus stop. We were back out there today for another look. Due to the distance from the stop, the team determined it’s a safe location for the students to wait for the bus.

Transportation contacted the parent, in addition we contacted Florida Fish & Wildlife.  Any further action to remove the alligator would need to come from the community HOA since it’s on private property.

FWC did send out a statement Wednesday as well:

Statement from FWC regarding assistance to the School District of Lee County.

FWC relies on property owners and school districts to let us know about wildlife issues, and we are happy to work with them to resolve those issues. Alligator bite incidents are rare in Florida but FWC takes safety very seriously.