Study identifies Flagler school transportation safety issues

By Brittany Jones, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 01, 2017, 9:33 PM EDT

As Flagler County students gear up to go back to school, a local transportation organization is recommending some changes to the district for safer travel to and from schools.

  • River to Sea Organization conducts back-to-school study
  • Study to improve transportation and conditions of buses
  • Updated buses estimated to cost $100,000

Their new study shows key concerns about safety and the district's plans to help the problem.

Carmen Stanford is getting her fourth grade daughter ready to return to school. She plans to drive her on her first day.

"Why do we choose to drive our children? What is the real issue and one of them is safety, safety as far as the buses, safety from bullying, foul language, and bullying," Stanford said.

"I've learned throughout the years to figure out the time when it’s really not that crazy. There's not that many parents but it’s a very smooth ride. I never had any issues," said Stanford.

But the River to Sea Transportation organization tracked seven Flagler schools including Stanford’s last school year. The study was aimed at making safety recommendations for student biking or walking to school.

The study revealed drivers speeding in school zones, not enough sidewalks and poor lighting.

It also suggested student drop-off locations are too congested which causes safety hazards.

They said more kids should ride the bus. Improvements need to be made within a mile or so to the schools to make it safer for students to walk or bike.

"When the wait times are long and the cars are stuck in the pickup loop or drop-off loop, kids tend to jump out of the cars, take short cuts, go between parked cars,” said Stephan Harris, River to Sea Coordinator.

“That increases the conflict that they may have and it increases the likelihood they may have a crash with a car that's moving, or if they're darting between cars they may not be seen. So we want to lessen the likelihood of that happening," Harris added.

The school district said back in March, nearly 11,000 students were eligible to take the bus, but just over 6,000 got on board to use school transportation.

"We're really not saying parents shouldn't drop their kids to school. What we're saying is there's room for improvement if you follow some of the recommendations of the study. Eventually conditions will be more conducive," said Harris.

The district said it'll survey the parents and work with stakeholders on the issues. But some recommended changes could take a while.

“We have thousands of kids riding our buses each and every day. Getting them to and from schools safely every day that's out there. We're going to work with parents once school starts up," said district spokesman Jason Wheeler.

Parents also mentioned buses without air conditioning as an issue.

Wheeler said about half of the fleet currently has air conditioning, but the ones without are used for shorter rides up to 15 minutes or so. 

The district said it is making efforts to update the fleet with new buses, which cost about $100,000 each.

Flagler County’s first day of school is set for Aug. 10.