By Tamas Mondovics
Thanks to recent changes involving Hillsborough County Public School student transportation such as the scrapping of HCPS’s long standing courtesy busing, the start of the 2017-2018 school year presented plenty of concerns and worry for parents and students.
Starting Thursday, August 10 an estimated 6,700 middle and High school students who are living within two-miles of their assigned school are now making their way to school by means of either walking, biking or being dropped off and picked up.
According to HCPS spokesperson, Tanya Arja, elementary courtesy busing, will also end at the start of the 2018-19 school year. School officials estimate the total saving at nearly $10 million.
While the estimated savings are substantial, and can be used in the classrooms, many parents feel that no amount of saving is worth it if it comes at the cost of student safety.
Only time will tell what adjustments are yet needed. In the mean time, local law enforcement officials, school district staff and administrators are urging residents to be alert, to use extra caution.
To assist with the effort to be vigilant this year, AAA’s Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation has donated approximately 500 yard signs and more than 1,700 vehicle magnets to local law enforcement officers at their annual back to school meeting.
Signs and magnets were distributed throughout Hillsborough County in an effort to alert drivers to be extra cautious for pedestrians and bicyclists before, during and after school hours.
Officials said that AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully, awareness campaign was designed to curb a trend of unsafe driving behavior in school zones and neighborhoods that can lead to children’s injury and death.
“We must work together as a community to remind drivers to slow down and stay alert as kids head back to school,” Arja said.
To keep students safe, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office also made arrangements to beef up its presence on the roadways as deputies are scheduled to be out in force, in patrol cruisers, motorcycles and unmarked vehicles keeping a close eye on motorists who don’t know or, don’t heed state laws regarding stopping for a school bus.
“The goal is to keep our children safe through education and enforcement,” HCSO Cpl. Larry McKinnon said in connection with the agency’s annual school bus safety campaign. For more information on Florida’s school bus laws, visit:http://floridaschoolbussafety.gov.