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Family of girl killed while trying to get to the bus stop had complained about impatient bus driver before

The family of the Pinellas Park High School student who was struck and killed at a bus stop Friday morning complained to the school district about the bus driver two months ago, district officials said this afternoon.

On Oct. 5, the family of 17-year-old Nora Hernandez-Huapilla, called the district to complain that the bus driver was not waiting for students who were held up by the light on 66th Street, associate superintendent Michael Bessette said at a press conference at district headquarters in Largo. The district's tracking system notes that the field operations supervisor said he would talk to the driver about the issue.

"Within reason, she has to wait for those kids," he said.

Marcea Mells-Wilson was the driver Friday and has been the driver on that route all year, except for a brief period when she was out sick, Bessette said. It was not immediately clear if she was the driver who drew the family's complaint in October.

Mells-Wilson has been with the district since 2001. Her personnel file was not immediately available.

Also Friday afternoon, Pinellas School District Superintendent Julie Janssen was asked what she would tell parents who said the new bus system was an accident waiting to happen.

Janssen said this: "You know those are decisions that parents make when they choose to allow their children to go to a school that's not their zoned school. The information was given at the beginning that we would provide arterial transportation, and it was a requirement for the parents to get the children to those stops. And it's a choice that a family makes to have a child stay at a school that's different than the assigned school."

Last year, less than 3,000 students were assigned to "arterial stops" on major roads. This year's figures weren't available Friday but Bessette said about 11,000 were eligible.

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873.

Family of girl killed while trying to get to the bus stop had complained about impatient bus driver before 12/18/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 8:34pm]
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