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Pinellas school district adds bus routes after crossing guard death

CLEARWATER — After the death of a crossing guard struck by a speeding Cadillac last month at Belcher Road and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, the guards will be removed and children will no longer be required to cross that intersection.

Instead, starting in the fall, the Pinellas County School District will provide three buses north of Gulf-to-Bay that will take students to Oak Grove Middle at 1370 S Belcher Road. The decision was made after a meeting with school district officials and crossing guard coordinators from the Clearwater Police Department, who asked that guards be removed.

"It is exactly what I wanted. It is exactly what we needed," said crossing guard trainer Norm Runkles, adding the district was "great enough to listen and come back with a decision to help us out."

Four crossing guards typically escorted children at Gulf-to-Bay and Belcher. At least two will remain from July 17 to July 24 during the Summer Bridge program and then during the first few days of the school year to inform parents and students about the changes.

Starting Aug. 18, the buses — which will cost $28,000 per bus every year — will be available north of Gulf-to-Bay, where nearly 120 Oak Grove students reside. About 60 to 80 students cross the intersection, the school district said.

Students are expected to receive post cards with their bus stop assignments the first week of August.

On May 20, crossing guard Douglas Carey, 70, was at Belcher Road and Gulf-to-Bay when a Cadillac traveling at 70 mph collided with another car and barreled toward him, police said.

Carey, a retired Clearwater police officer, died at the scene.

The driver, Julious Johnson, 28, remains at the Pinellas County jail on several charges, including vehicular homicide.

Laura C. Morel can be reached at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157. Follow her on Twitter @lauracmorel.

Pinellas school district adds bus routes after crossing guard death 06/06/14 [Last modified: Friday, June 6, 2014 9:06pm]
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