Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Oldsmar parents fight to keep school bus service

OLDSMAR — A recent Pinellas County School Board decision to discontinue bus service to some children within 2 miles of Oldsmar Elementary School has city officials and parents in a panic.

"Public safety is our number one concern," said Mayor Jim Ronecker. "And if we can't protect our school kids, then we've got some serious issues."

The issue: Oldsmar Elementary students living north of State Road 580 had gotten bus service — even though they are within the 2-mile zone where children normally are required to walk. The School Board made an exception because Forest Lakes Boulevard had been considered hazardous.

But now the road has sidewalks, so it's considered safe enough for walking, according to school transportation officials. Bus service will be discontinued for all children within 2 miles of Oldsmar Elementary.

A similar decision was made for students at Sutherland Elementary School in Palm Harbor. New sidewalks on Belcher Road will mean 75 students there will have to walk to school too.

In Oldsmar, 42 students from kindergarten through fifth grade will walk past busy fast-food businesses on Tampa Road, south on Forest Lakes Boulevard's sidewalks, then cross Forest Lakes Boulevard at the State Road 580 traffic light.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office recorded 210 citations at the light in April, many for drivers who ran the red light, according to city officials.

"I have a 5-year-old and I can't imagine having her cross there," said council member Eric Seidel. "I wouldn't allow it — it's a zoo there."

In a letter to Michael Burke, the School Board's route and safety auditor, Oldsmar Elementary School family and community liaison Cathleen Schmitt cited numerous reasons why it's tough to be a driver at that intersection, much less a pedestrian. Among them:

• A right turn lane that cars move through continuously.

•Heavy morning traffic meeting on two major roads.

•A speed limit of 50 miles per hour, and cars that travel 65 mph or faster.

•Railroad tracks north of the intersection that create congestion.

"I am deeply concerned that there will be an accident and a child will be injured or killed," wrote Schmitt, who is the mother of an Oldsmar Elementary student.

But the students won't be crossing alone. Two new crossing guards will help them across Forest Lakes. Two additional new crossing guards will escort them across State Road 580 at the Bayview Boulevard light.

The mayor said the crossing guards will help, but they can't prevent careless driving.

"If somebody's looking down at their cell phone in the morning," Ronecker said, "there's going to be a whole batch of kids hit, including the crossing guards."

He wouldn't allow his fifth-grader to cross there, he said, nor would he himself attempt to cross there — at age 43.

"It's just not good common sense," he said.

The School Board has referred the issue to a committee charged with improving the safety of the route. And the Florida Department of Transportation will evaluate State Road 580 and consider improvements, such as possibly lowering the speed limit.

Jennifer Lash of Oldsmar doesn't understand why buses that already go down Forest Lakes Boulevard can't stop for her 9-year-old daughter. She said she tried to voice her concerns to the School Board but was told she was "too early to complain."

In a May 6 e-mail to Schmitt, School Board official Burke said the decision had been reviewed by the School Board's transportation safety team and transportation management.

At this point, he suggested that students "need to be trained/instructed on the route to school and how to walk safely to school."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

>>Fast facts

How to voice

your opinion

Go online to www.pinellas.k12.fl.us/IS/RealProp/safety

form2.html or call the School Board at (727) 588-6300.

Oldsmar parents fight to keep school bus service 07/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 11:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who's behind the mysterious butt graffiti all over St. Petersburg?

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first butts, perhaps, appeared in April on some steps behind the Sundial shopping plaza.

    A photo of the butt graffiti that has been cropping up around St. Petersburg in the past several months. [CHRISTOPHER SPATA | STAFF]
  2. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  3. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses

    Business

    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  4. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning

    Blogs

    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  5. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.