BROOKSVILLE — At least a dozen school bus stops will soon become safer for children waiting for their rides in the pre-dawn darkness.
The Hernando County Commission recently approved funding for streetlights at the stops and for four of the stops to have 10-foot-square concrete pads where students can stand at a safe distance from traffic while waiting for their buses to arrive.
"It's going to make a huge difference as far as making these stops safer," said school transportation director Linda Smith.
According to Smith, the 12 bus stops slated for improvement include three located near Chocachatti Elementary School on California Street, the same road where 13-year-old West Hernando Middle School student Kaitlyn Harper died on Sept. 9 after being struck from behind by a pickup.
After the tragedy, school and county officials vowed to find ways to lessen the hazards that children face while waiting for buses in the dark.
Smith said that although more than 50 bus stops were targeted as needing improvements based on suggestions from bus drivers, the county decided to focus at this point on the 12 busiest sites.
"We had to pick and choose because money (for the project) was limited," Smith said.
The county will spend $750 per site to install the lights and pads. Annual maintenance is expected to cost $1,050. Work on the bus stops is expected to begin in the next few weeks.
In addition to improvements on California Street at Forzando Avenue, Narrow Street and Sandusky Street, other intersections include Nightwalker Road at Noddy Tern Road; Knuckey Road at Missouri Skylark Road; Lake Lindsey Road at Old Crystal River Road; Old Crystal River Road at Our Road; Snow Memorial Highway at Lake Lindsey Road; Madrid Road at Flatwood Avenue; Ponce De Leon Boulevard at Hebron Church Road; Thrasher Avenue at Merganser Road; and Companero Entra at Lily Drive.
The concrete pads will be installed at Shoal Line Boulevard at Waverly Road; Olancha Road and Ohio Avenue; Glenchester Drive and Otter Drive; and Old Crystal River Road and Our Road.
Although Smith agrees that streetlights are a great improvement, she also believes that students could also do more to keep themselves safer at bus stops.
"We encourage parents to talk to their kids about not standing on the pavement while waiting for the bus," she said. "A lot of times, drivers coming around curves just aren't looking for kids standing along the roads."
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.