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Cape Royal parents complain about bus stop distances

By Staff | Aug 13, 2011

Cape Royal parents say they are concerned about how far their children have to walk to the bus stop – up to 2.5 miles in some cases.

School Board member Don Armstrong confirms that the district is receiving complaints from families living in the gated community off Pine Island Road – and that currently, the greatest number of parent concerns regarding how far their child has to walk is coming from Cape Royal.

He said one set of parents asked if he would walk with their 13-year-old daughter, who is in middle school, to her stop.

Armstrong said he showed up at their home Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. to walk the route while also carrying the student’s backpack.

The walk to the bus stop, Armstrong said, was 2.1 miles, and took between 30-40 minutes.

“I wanted to see exactly what their concern was,” he said. “It is a nice little hike, that is for sure. I am not going to lie about that one.”

Last year, the student’s stop was 300 feet from her house.

A more than two-mile walk to the bus stop is a little extreme, Armstrong agreed, but added he also had to walk long distances when he was younger.

“A lot of it depends on the circumstances,” he said.

Routes are determined by school district policy.

“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 developments. 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,” the policy states.

“Public road” is a key phrase.

Lee County School District Transportation Director Robert Morgan said there is not a single student in Lee County who walks more than two miles to get to a bus stop on a public street.

The policy states that students may be required to travel up to 1.5 miles to and from their bus stop. Morgan said per the policy, the “pedestrian entry point of the residence shall be where private property meets the public right-of-way.”

The policy also states that students who live two or more miles from their assigned school are eligible for transportation to and from their school.

“We are enforcing and implementing district policy,” he said.

Morgan said he has met with the concerned parents from the community and currently is reviewing the bus stops for Cape Royal.

Armstrong said it also comes down to money.

Because the school district is facing a deficit, the board is looking into ways to keep the money in the classroom. Armstrong said they are trying to come up with a way to increase safety and efficiency of buses in the district.

“We are facing a $38 million deficit this year,” Armstrong said. “We refuse to take the money out of the classrooms, so we have to cut the budget somewhere … have to find more efficient ways to run our busing system and our schools. If people can come up with a better way to do this without cutting money from the classroom I am all ears.”

Despite the complaints, Morgan said this has been their best school opening so far regarding school buses.

The district currently has 667 operating buses for approximately 1,350 routes. He said they changed 1,500 bus stops district-wide to increase safety for the students.

Bus stops are continuously reevaluated on a weekly basis to see if adjustments need to be made.

Some additional changes to bus routes are scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

Armstrong said the reevaluations take place so district officials can see if more sufficient and efficient ways for the bus stops can be made.

Two town hall meetings will be held to give parents an opportunity to voice their concern about their child’s bus stop in Cape Coral. The first meeting will be held today from 10 a.m. until noon at the Cape Coral Lee County Regional Library, 921 SW 39th Terrace, and again on Aug. 20 at the Northwest Regional Library, 519 Chiquita Blvd. N.

Morgan, Armstrong and Cape Coral City Councilmember Kevin McGrail will be in attendance to talk with parents about an initiative they began to help ensure safety of the students by moving bus stops to lighted areas.