District to make bus safety top priority
Volunteers are to help ensure students get on and off buses safely, and there will be a crackdown on traffic violators.
By DONNA WINCHESTER
Published July 31, 2005
This week, the Pinellas County school district's 700-plus buses will resume carrying more than 50,000 students back and forth across Pinellas County.
The buses will cover an estimated 12-million miles in the next nine months.
District officials are counting bus safety among their top priorities for the coming school year. Last year, two tragic accidents claimed the lives of 16-year-old Clearwater High School student Rebecca McKinney and 8-year-old James B. Sanderlin Elementary School pupil Brooke Ingoldsby in St. Petersburg.
On Friday, McKinney's family filed a lawsuit against the School Board, alleging the district was negligent. Despite repeated complaints, school administrators did not try to fix problems until after Rebecca was killed, the suit contends.
In response to last year's problems, school officials have undertaken a major reorganization that "moved more of the services closer to the drivers," said Ron Stone, a district spokesman who is overseeing the initiatives.
The district also has implemented a number of measures to ensure student safety, he said.
Among them is an effort to find adults willing to volunteer at bus stops to make sure children board and disembark safely. Another is a more cooperative effort between school administrators and bus drivers to ensure that discipline problems on the bus are handled in the same way that school-based discipline issues are handled.
Parents once again will have access to a student information form on the transportation department's Web site that will allow them to report safety concerns. And the district will again be working with law enforcement personnel to crack down on school bus stop arm violations.
"Once those stop arms are out, traffic is supposed to stop," Stone said. "Some motorists are not paying attention. A lot of folks ignore them and ride right through."
The hope is that extra officers stationed at bus stops will discourage such violations, he said.
A committee of school system and county and municipality representatives who review general and site-specific safety issues will monitor safety issues around schools, roads and intersections, Stone said. The district also has developed a public service announcement on bus safety that is posted on the Web site under the "Safety First" section.
And in response to parents who have concerns about the proximity of bus stops to sexual predators' residences, the transportation department is using new technology to try to overlay its maps with maps produced by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Stone said. Relying on additional information from parents and law enforcement, stops are reviewed on a regular basis, he added.
No matter what type of transportation-related concern a parent may have, the district's new call center should be able to offer assistance, Stone said. Six permanent employees and about 20 part-time temporary employees have been trained in customer service to either answer questions or route parents to the appropriate resource.
"In the past, the district had a help desk," Stone said. "The call center will be more organized. It will direct traffic, if you will, when parents have a concern. It will send the call to the appropriate staff and answer questions, hopefully within 24 hours."
WEB SITE ANSWERS BUS QUESTIONS
Whose responsibility is it to inform you that your child's bus will be late? What are the rules for bus stop placement near a sexual predator's residence? Who should you contact to request a crossing guard along your child's walk path to school?
For the answers to these and other transportation related questions, visit www.pinellas.k12.fl.us/is/trans/faq.html
BUS ROUTE ASSIGNMENTS
Families with children registered in the school system should have received a postcard with their children's bus route information. The postcard lists the assigned stop and the pick-up and drop-off times. Parents also can visit the district's interactive Web site, http://edulog.pinellas.k12.fl.us/edulog/webquery/ to find out where and when their children can catch the school bus. They can contact the transportation department's call center at 727 587-2020 for answers to questions about transportation arrangements or to request a change in arrangements. The call center will operate from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday for the first few months of school. Regular hours will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
[Last modified July 31, 2005, 01:32:21]
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