A Hernando County mobile home community has a message for the school-age children living there: Stop walking through your own neighborhood. The directors of the Brookridge Community Property Owners Association ill-conceived idea of public safety is to cut off pedestrian access between the rear of the 2,500-home neighborhood and the three public schools directly across the street.
It means, effective next week, approximately 50 children living in the mobile home park who attend Pine Grove Elementary, West Hernando Middle and Central High schools will have to be transported by their parents, grab rides with others or walk the 3 miles from the park's front gate to the school buildings.
Because of the close proximity between the rear of the park and the schools, students are ineligible for the bus transportation. The state reimburses school districts only for the cost of busing children living more than 2 miles from their school. And as a cost-cutting move, the district earlier this year eliminated so-called courtesy rides for children living closer than 2 miles.
The neighborhood board's decision has befuddled parents, school officials and the Sheriff's Office, which provides a guard to safely guide children across Ken Austin Parkway, the two-lane road between the rear of the park and the schools.
As Tampa Bay Times staff writer Danny Valentine reported, the board cited security and cost for its decision. Both reasons are suspect. There never has been a security guard at the rear gate so why is the neighborhood board now worried about the expense of hiring one? Likewise, the homeowner's board president told Valentine he couldn't cite a particular serious crime within the neighborhood.
The community's board of directors needs to reverse this decision.
Locking a gate because of a perceived, but unfounded, security threat is irresponsible. When it comes to public safety, the school children within the park deserve the same consideration as the adult home owners.