Citrus, Hernando Counties to improve sidewalk safety for kids

By Kim Leoffler, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017, 10:28 PM EDT

A project to keep kids safe going to and from school is about to take effect in Citrus and Hernando Counties.  The project involves new sidewalks going in for students.

  • Project will install new sidewalks around 5 schools
  • Metropolitan Planning Organization working on project since 2011
  • Funds for project recently returned

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is implementing a project through the Safe Routes to School Program to install more sidewalks around five schools in Hernando and Citrus counties. It's a project the organization has been working on since 2011 but only recently got the funding to move forward.

"It's a question of money," said Metropolitan Planning Organization spokesperson Steve Diez. "Years ago "Safe Routes to School" used to have a separate pot of money, a small pot of money. Some projects got built with that. That funding was taken away for several years. Now it's back again. So everybody's jumping on the safe routes funding to get these projects built."

The organization plans to put in over two million dollars worth of sidewalks and bridges between the five schools.

One of the five schools named for the project is John D. Floyd Elementary School, where resident Kerri Gumz's two oldest sons go to school

It's a daily routine for Gumz's sons to ride their bikes to school. The brothers live too close to be picked up by a bus.

But a few weeks ago, the boys were hit by a car on their way to class.

"They suffered some pretty severe injuries from it and we're learning now how to deal with that -- both physically deal with it but emotionally as well," Gumz said.

The oldest brother is still in a cast. The youngest had some head injuries.

Photo courtesy of Kerri Gumz

The sidewalk along Gumz's sons’ route ends about a quarter of a mile away from the school. She said if the sidewalk was extended, her sons’ accident could have been prevented.

"They're forced to walk on the street or on lawns, and with a bike you can't really ride on a lawn,” Gumz explained.

She told us she's glad to hear about the Metropolitan Planning Organization's plans for new sidewalks, though she said it's still important for parents to make sure their kids are safe, such as wearing helmets when biking.

"We were told by the doctor straight up if he didn't have his helmet on he wouldn't be here,” Gumz said.

She said it’s also important for drivers to pay attention when driving close to a school.

Brooksville Elementary, Spring Hill Elementary, Explorer K-8, and Westside Elementary are also part of the sidewalk project. The projects are expected to be completed in the next two years.

Gumz said her sons still have a long road to recovery. If you'd like to help, click here.