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Bench program continues to try to keep students safe

Safety at school bus stops
Posted at 5:59 PM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 17:59:17-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — It was in March of 2019 that 8 year old Layla Aiken was killed at a bus stop in Cape Coral. On October 29th, the man who plead guilty to the crime is out of prison.

Since that fatal tragedy occurred organizations continue to come together to try to make school bus stop areas safer. 200 designated benches have been seen throughout the Cape Coral area for kids to wait for buses instead of sitting or waiting on the ground.

Nick Muhlenbruch, a Cape Coral Rotary Club Member says "It's extremely important because there's nothing more important than the safety of our children."

The Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs of Cape Coral and public donations have made the benches possible. The hundreds of benches came about at semi permanent bus stops as a pilot program but continue today.

A concerned neighbor in the Cape Coral area, Cecilia Vivace says better lighting would be beneficial as well as more sidewalks. She also thinks the picnic benches need to be taken better care of, "They had a really good idea when they put the slabs with the bench on it because they seem to be kept clean this is not clean."

Nick Muhlenbruch adds that the groups want to continue to improve the benches, "Even though the intentions were good they are not very secure and safe as the benches and slabs are so the next 62 will be replacing picnic benches at semi-permanent spots."

Instead of the picnic style benches/tables you may have seen around town, the new ones will have a concrete slab and a bench.

The groups work with the school district to decide where the next sites will be.

Cecilia Vivace, "It's a tragedy but the word is safety if they want to stop the hit and runs sidewalks, bike paths. Make is accessible to the community and hopefully these tragedies will stop."

Even though there will be 262 benches it's still important to discuss with your kids about ways to stay safe while waiting for the school bus.

"Obviously, it's up to the drivers to pay attention to their surroundings and watch for students especially in low light areas. Our stance has always been it is not our job or the school districts or the cities job to educate our children on how to properly be at a school bus stop. Ultimately that's the parents job is to educate their children how to safely not be on the road if there's a place to go a sidewalk the school safe zones," says Muhlenbruch.

The plan is to add the 62 new safe zones, slabs and benches in the beginning of 2022.