Officials gather input on school bus stops
A Cape Coral councilmember and school officials continued to address the issue of student bus stops and took input from residents Saturday in another in a series of town hall meetings.
From 10 a.m. to noon, Councilmember Kevin McGrail addressed a handful of people at the Cape Coral-Lee County Public Library, at 921 S.W. 39th Terrace. The meeting the fourth hosted since the end of the previous school year focused on identifying safety issues at the stops and streamlining the bus routes.
Serving as a liaison for the city, McGrail is working with school officials, including Lee County School District Transportation Director Robert Morgan, to straighten out the routes to save time and money.
The school district’s transportation budget last year the cost to transport students was $48 million. McGrail said the state reimbursed the district $20 million, leaving $28 million for the county to cover.
“That’s a lot of money,” he said.
But safety is the main focus for McGrail. He explained that he received an e-mail from a concerned Cape parent. The mother wrote that she had to leave her daughter at a dark bus stop to wait all by herself.
“I can empathize with that. I’m a parent myself,” he said. “There had to be a better way.”
McGrail hopes to see each bus stop lighted and would like to have multiple children using each stop.
There were 1,900 bus stops in the Cape that had been whittled down to 871 as of Saturday. According to McGrail, 441 of those 871 bus stops currently have a street light or are lighted about 51 percent.
“We knew there was going to be a deficit of infrastructure (regarding the lights),” he said.
If putting in a light is not an option, moving the stop to an area where one exists is a possibility.
“This is a big undertaking,” McGrail said. “The lighting project is going to take some time.”
For Cape resident Catherine Lango, she attended Saturday to share with officials the concerns that she has for her daughter’s bus stop. Located one block off of Santa Barbara Boulevard, the stop has no light, the area floods and the residence at which the bus stop is situated appears to be unoccupied or vacant.
“My biggest concern is the amount of kids at the bus stop,” she said.
In the mornings, a boy waits at the stop with her daughter, who attends Trafalgar Middle School. After school though, her daughter gets off at the stop by herself at a quarter after 5 p.m. and walks home.
“I don’t want her out there by herself,” Lango said.
She also shared with officials her concerns about motorists speeding on the road.
“I like that they have the town hall meetings,” Lango said, adding that the events provide parents with the chance to share their thoughts on the issue at hand.
She added that she was a little disappointed more people did not show up.
Officials expect to have the bus stops figured out by the end of August or beginning of September.
“What we’re trying to do now is establish the routes and get them stabilized,” Morgan said.
District policy says that students living within two miles of their school are not eligible to ride the bus except in cases where there are hazardous walking conditions. He explained that the goal is to narrow the two miles down to one-half of a mile for elementary students, three-quarters of a mile for middle school students and one mile for high school students.
“All we’re doing is implementing the existing policies,” Morgan said.
“The goal of this is to get a semi-permanent bus stop that’s safe,” McGrail added.