BROOKSVILLE — A little more than a week after a 13-year-old girl was struck and killed by a pickup truck while walking to a bus stop, Hernando County school officials and the county's Public Works Department have begun looking for ways to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Hernando school superintendent Wayne Alexander said school maintenance director Ken Hill met with Public Works director Charles Mixon and his staff Thursday in an initial effort to explore feasible ways of making bus stops on busy streets such as California Street safer.
"It's a good first step toward finding what will work that adequately addresses the concerns of parents and students," Alexander said. "We owe them that."
Alexander said there will be more meetings in the coming weeks.
Alexander was out of town Thursday and unable to attend the meeting. However, he was told by Hill that several solutions to the problem were discussed, including the possibility of adding sidewalks, signs, street lights or other measures in high traffic areas that contain school bus stops.
The officials at the hour-long meeting did not get into specifics such as the costs of the improvements along the street or how they would be financed.
Alexander said he believes that street signs could help along the busy road, where school buses make at least 35 stops in each direction each day and the speed limit is 50 mph.
Barry Crowley, the district's Safety and Security director, said that more signs might not make for a long-term solution. He said that the signs could become redundant and that drivers might start to ignore them. More and better street lights might be better, he said.
Thursday's meeting comes in the aftermath of the Sept. 9 accident that killed West Hernando Middle School eighth-grader Kaitlyn Harper. She was walking along California Street to a bus stop in the predawn darkness when she was struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by Mark A. Buel of Brooksville. Buel was not charged in the accident.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Kaitlyn was nearly a mile from her designated bus stop and was walking in an area that has no sidewalks and few streetlights.
Crowley said that such concerns were the ones that needed to be addressed. "I think it's a combination of making bus stops safer and informing kids that they also have a responsibility, too, to keep themselves safe as well."
Crowley recalls recently having to admonish a student he saw standing on the roadway while waiting for the bus.
"He seemed totally unaware of the danger he was in," Crowley said. "Unfortunately, that's how a lot of these tragedies happen."
Transportation director Linda Smith said it is an established practice for school bus drivers to remind students about bus stop safety.
"A lot of kids just don't think about those things," Smith said. "So we need to keep telling them until they get the message."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.