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Palm Coast Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2016 2 years ago

School District, city of Palm Coast to begin school bus stop improvements in 'pilot program' at three stops

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If it works, they'll spread the program across the district.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Three school bus stops — at London Drive and Lee Drive, Rolling Sands and Rolling Fern Drive, and Farnsworth Drive Fairbanks Lane — may soon get a safety-friendly makeover.

The three stops would serve as a kind of trial or "pilot program" for planned improvements that could involve adding concrete pads off the road for children to wait on, and in some cases adding crosswalks, Flagler Schools Consultant for Operations Mike Judd told School Board members in a presentation during a March 1 School Board meeting.

"Once that pilot program is put in place, it gives us an opportunity to look and see if people are actually using them," Judd said. "If they're not using them, then maybe the answer is we need more education, we need more enforcement, or, maybe it's just not working and we need to look at another option."

The city of Palm Coast is funding the pilot program, Judd said, and expects concrete pads to cost about $1,200 each. 

The city is looking for more money, possibly from the Transportation Planning Organization, which will already be paying for a consultant to look at the bus stop safety issue next year city-wide. 

If the pilot program is successful, Judd said, it could be rolled out phased in across the district.

The improvements were proposed by a joint School District/city of Palm Coast staff group convened to improve safety at local bus stops after 7-year-old Wadsworth student Kymora Christian was struck and killed by a car while waiting at her school bus stop Oct. 7, 2015. 

The group, which includes City Councilman Jason DeLorenzo and School Board Member Andy Dance, used school district data about bus stops and city GIS mapping technology to compile information about which stops might be most dangerous and in need of changes. 

The group created a draft list of 18 stops that are high-priority and would be addressed before others. Ultimately, Judd said, not every stop in the district would get a new waiting pad for students, or need one. 

Many of the districts' 600-some stops move every few years, so the district would make sure tat any stops slated for improvements like concrete pads are ones that will be in the same lace long enough to warrant the attention.

With the city's mapping technology, Judd said, "We can click on stops and see the data for that stop. We looked at those factors and then we wighted them, applied that weighting to each stop to create a ranking of what would be more of a priority to improve based on those factors."

As the joint School District/Palm Coast group works on improving safety at the stops themselves, Dance said at the workshop, a Flagler Palm Coast High School Community Problems Solving group has been focusing on teaching pedestrian and bicycling safety to younger kids through school presentations.

"Just today the group was at Wadsworth Elementary School, and they did their version of a presentation ... and it was very well received," he said. "The group will be able to get this presentation fine-tuned, and we'll look to get it spread throughout the district," he said.

"I think in the future, we'll look at a policy that incorporates intergovernmental relationships with the county, the city, the School Board the Sheriff's Office and perpetuates students' safety," Dance said. 

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