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School District Advised to Cut Down on Car Riders and Push Bus Riding Instead, For Safety

| July 5, 2017

Consultants cited the daily jams along Parkview Drive, near Wadsworth Elementary, among their safety concerns in a series of analyses of student safety and traffic patterns around Palm Coast's and Bunnell's schools. (© FlaglerLive)

Consultants cited the daily jams along Parkview Drive, near Wadsworth Elementary, among their safety concerns in a series of analyses of student safety and traffic patterns around Palm Coast’s and Bunnell’s schools. (© FlaglerLive)

Officials have concluded from detailed studies of transportation patterns for Flagler County’s six elementary schools and two middle schools that too many parents are driving to and from schools to drop off and pick up their children, increasing congestion around schools, causing hazardous conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, and increasing the risk of harm to students at the beginning and end of the school day.

That’s the case even at Old Kings Elementary, where almost no students were observed walking to school, and where most live beyond the minimum one-mile perimeter from the school that makes them eligible to ride district buses. But potential problems were also detected at other schools in the district.

Ironically, the district’s emphasis on school choice, permitting parents to enroll their child in any of the county’s schools, space permitting, has only encouraged car riding, as buses don’t always accommodate school choice. So the district’s own policies may be at odds with the studies’ safety-minded conclusions.

The studies also found that for pedestrians and cyclists, sidewalks around several of the schools could be improved, striping on roads should be brightened, road signage increased and enforcement of traffic laws intensified, with more tickets periodically issued to set an example.

Palm Coast government and the school district have attempted to better understand safety issues around schools and in neighborhoods, but in a largely improvised, non-systematic and anecdotal way. The studies sponsored by the Transportation Planning Organization are the first comprehensive, empirical analyses to that end. Each school’s study is more than 100 pages long. The studies were conducted by Orlando-based Kittleson and Associates, a planning and engineering firm, and paid for by the River To Sea Transportation Planning organization, which represents Flagler and Volusia counties and sets the agenda for road, rail and other transportation-related development and safety issues. Elected officials from all local governments serve on the board of the organization.

The studies have no enforcement component. But they give local governments—in this case, the school board, primarily, but also Palm Coast and Bunnell governments and the Sheriff’s Office—more empirical evidence on which to base their safety and development plans. The studies also coincide with heightened concern over the past two years in Flagler and Palm Coast for students’ safety at bus stops and on the way to and from school, as the county has wrestled with numerous crashes involving students on foot or on bicycles, including three fatalities.

But the studies had two major blind spots: Matanzas High School (two of whose students have been killed on Palm Coast’s roads since December) and Flagler Palm Coast High School. Flagler County School Board members, who heard a briefing on the studies at a workshop last month, want those blind spots remedied. The board members agreed to further discuss studies at their next workshop on July 18 to come up with an action plan, though when the agenda for the July 11 meeting was posted today, that discussion did not appear listed.

Too many parents using the car-rider option, too few sidewalks, but many suggestions.

“One of the main culprits is the amount of cars that access” school campuses, School Board member Andy Dance said. “Even schools having a decent pedestrian access, there’s still too many cars utilizing the pick-up drop-offs, so how do we make the routes safer, how do we give parents the feeling of a safe route to school?” Dance has taken part in joint efforts with Palm Coast, going back to last year, to improve student safety, but those efforts to date have led mostly to largely cosmetic changes at a few bus stops and more heightened education campaigns for students who walk and bike to school. None of the safety measures have addressed parental car lines to date—and none had even considered that to be an issue.

 “Why are so many parents not utilizing the bus service, and is there a way we can find out what their concerns and fears are,” School Board member Colleen Conklin said, “or some of the reasons for why they’re not using the buses, that we might be able to address some of those concerns and increase the number of students who actually ride the bus, if that’s possible.” She suggested a mandatory workshop for parents if they are to qualify for a pass to pick up and drop off their children, a proposal almost certain to draw some resistance from parents. And, she said, she wants a  discussion between the school district, the city council and the sheriff’s office.

Too many parents using the car-rider option, too few sidewalks, but many suggestions. Adam Burghoff, senior engineer with Kittelson and Associates, presented the firm’s findings to the board with Winnie Oden, the district’s safety  coordinator.

Burghoff had encouraging words to say about the relationships between crossing guards and students at the various schools, with crossing guards filling an effective role to efficiently get walkers in and out of campus. He noted that was especially the case at Belle Terre Elementary, a school with hundreds of students who walk or, judging from the amply used bike pens, bike to school. The issue in that zone, which also affects Indian Trails Middle School, is sidewalks: while the sidewalks are broad along Belle Terre Parkway and on some collector roads, they disappear on smaller roads. For example, a sidewalk ends abruptly at Bird of Paradise Drive and Borroughs Drive. Nevertheless, students were observed walking “comfortably in the streets.”

The majority of vehicles tend to observe the speed limit, except for the random motorists who do not: those, of course, are the motorists who cause damage. One of the recommendations that came out of the study is to step up enforcement where we can,” Burghoff said. Another issue on side streets, observed particularly on Bird of Paradise Drive: private driveways cause students to walk in the street. The firm recommends speaking with property owners to be less restrictive.

The study found ample bike riding at some of the district's schools, but traffic jams reduce the bikers' safety. (Kittleson and Associates)

The study found ample bike riding at some of the district’s schools, but traffic jams reduce the bikers’ safety. (Kittleson and Associates)

There were more serious issues at Rymfire Elementary, where parents are often reluctant to go into the car-rider loop, so they drop off students on Rytmfire Drive instead. Avoiding car rider lines isn’t uncommon anywhere in the state, “but in this particular case,” Burghoff said, “we were starting to see that the parent pick-up drop-off behavior in and around the school was actually leading to safety issues that could be avoided, when a parent drops off their student outside the road, then the student darts across the road, or maybe they go down to the crosswalk and they’re walking in an area where there might be no sidewalk today. That does create a safety issue that could be addressed.”

One of the recommendations is enhance the signage to give police better ground to enforce unsafe behavior.  The city should also freshen up the striping on the road, Burghoff said.

Another recommendation from the study: “Install street lighting on Rymfire Drive in front of School Campus, especially at the intersection of Red Mill Drive which has the crosswalk across Rymfire Drive.” And to improve safety between a deep drainage ditch and the sidewalk along Rymfire Drive, “Plant continuous dense shrubs between the sidewalk and drainage swale to fill the gaps.” There’s also a recommendation to forbid left turns from Rymfire Drive onto the school’s north entrance.

And this, which could get residents as riled up as they have been in the F Section, over a proposed footpath along an FPL easement there: “Conduct a feasibility study to explore options for constructing shared use paths within drainage easements located on east of Rymfire Drive & Regency Drive as well as on northwest of Rymfire Drive/ Ralph Carter Park to better connect neighborhoods.”

At Wadsworth, a lot pf parents drop off their children on Parkview, by the park near the school, which analysts found problematic, along with building congestion on Parkview.

“Whenever you have vehicular congestion, it creates an environment for unsafe behaviors for pedestrians and bicyclists because they’re concentrating more on cars than they would be a bicyclist coming in quickly from one direction, or a pedestrian,”  Burghoff said. The consultants are proposing finding ways to reduce the number of parents who drive their children to school there, and encourage bus riding instead, as with Old Kings Elementary. “If we can mitigate the number of conflicts between cars, bicyclists and pedestrians, it improves safety.”

At Buddy Taylor Middle School, the recommendation is to reconfigure the endless “serpentine” pick up and drop off area so parents aren’t locked into the line for so long. “The buses aren’t the issue, it’s really just parents,” Burghoff said.

There was an issue with walkers who walk up ands down Belle Terre, particularly at the level of the pedestrian bridge over a ditch, a short distance south of the school’s campus. Burghoff said a lot of students congregate on that bridge, while a lot of other students then opt not to walk the gauntlet, choosing to cross the parkway and walk on the other side instead. Further into the neighborhoods, same story: a lack of sidewalks.

Around Bunnell Elementary, the issue wasn’t so much a lack of sidewalks as narrow sidewalks.

Every study may be accessed below:

The Complete Studies:

Belle Terre Elementary School
Buddy Taylor Middle School
Indian Trails Middle School
Old Kings Elementary School
Rymfire Elementary School
Wadsworth Elementary School
Bunnell Elementary School

Kittleson and Associates’ Presentation (2017)

34 Responses for “School District Advised to Cut Down on Car Riders and Push Bus Riding Instead, For Safety”

  1. Markingthedays says:

    Makes sense to me. This whole “car-rider” business seems like such a first world problem. The only time I was ever dropped off at school was when I missed the bus! HAHA

    And it wasn’t that long ago I was in school.

  2. Denise says:

    Why are kids not riding the buses? Surely they’re being utilized, otherwise, they wouldn’t be available. Are they already too crowded? Are the bus stop/pickup times unacceptable to too many? It would be real helpful to see/hear/read parent input. Is it about convenience? Parent work-times?

  3. Just me says:

    The bus rides are when all of the trouble happens. My kids have a 2.1 mile ride to bunnell elementary and tbere are nothing but issues. Fighting, bullying, the language, and the behavior in general is horrific. More enforcement of bus rules would be great. The shortage of drivers doesn’t help matters. Hire experienced bus drivers and enforce strict rules and you’ll get more kids on buses.

  4. Veteran says:

    My kids are grown but they rode the bus. Parents, you are paying taxes, use the school buses.

  5. another vet says:

    parents park were they want and create their own lanes when driving I live there and deal with it every day

  6. Momof3 says:

    No sidewalks for kids to wait for the bus?! Hello. It’s dangerous.
    And also the way the kids act on the bus.

  7. Stephani Hernandez says:

    Just me has it right: too much shit happens on the school bus. It isn’t safe. There needs to be a monitor who is not trying to drive the bus and is not a student who can keep track of what happens. The school bus driver cannot be responsible for knowing who really started stuff while they are driving, and the monitors are too biased and influenced by popularity contests ( and that’s if they have the attention span to even notice in the first place). The video cameras are helpful when something ultra serious happens, but when it’s just run-of-the-mill bullying, no one even looks at the video camera footage. I have heard way way way too many stories of bullying and roughhousing on the bus.

  8. Roll on 2 says:

    Perhaps an example can be learned from Volusia County, which has at least one attendant on every bus to enforce rules and keep problems under control.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Too many issues on the buses with kids who come from parents that did not teach them respect for one another and you have bullies , the language that is used by some of these young children that reflect the households that they come from , bus drivers have to be careful how they handle those issues or they will be fired and possible sued, parents do not want their kids subjected to this environment for a mile or more on the way to school . To sum it all up maybe there are just too many misfit kids from misfit parents riding the bus

  10. FlaglerCountyCitizen says:

    Well, I think our county has expanded beyond the number of schools we have. We don’t have all the schools in each community. There are two middle schools and two high schools that serve all of Flagler County. Surely that’s part of the problem.

  11. Bill harvey says:

    $10 an hour to drive the most precious cargo on the face of the planet no thank you get with it Flagler County you’re 20 years behind the times which school bus salaries

  12. Outsider says:

    Aside from the aforementioned issues, some of the buses come so early that kids have to wake up and burn earlier to catch a bus. Kids don’t learn well when they are tired, and this doesn’t help.

  13. dnap26 says:

    Here’s a thought: If they have a problem with how many parents are dropping off their kids, how about offering the bus as an option to more? It’s ridiculous that middle achiol kids have to live more than 2 miles away to get a bus. Make it one mile, bus more kids, and stop complaining…

  14. Diane says:

    Self inflicted problem by allowing parents school choice instead of district area schools . Very difficult busing challenge. And the drivers pay scale is a disgrace. Drivers should be making double ! You are right Bill Harvey at least twenty years behind !

  15. Mark101 says:

    Just think most of these schools start close to 9 ish until 3:40 , maybe parents just want to spend a little more time with their children. You put a kid on a buss and its around the first stop, that child is going to be stuck in a buss for what seems like an eternity to them.

    In Flagler County

    Elementary Students (Grades K-6) that live within ONE (1) mile of their home school zone will NOT be provided School Bus Transportation.

    Secondary Students (Grades 7-12) that live within TWO (2) miles of their home school zone will NOT be provided School Bus Transportation.

  16. The Truth says:

    The problem here is not school choice, the problem is that parents can’t follow simple rules. I see parents parked all over the place at every school, particularly Wadsworth. They park on the side of the road on Parkview, they park on Belle Terre Parkway and even on side roads like Pritchard Drive. How can we expect our children to follow rules when the parents are unable too?

  17. jm says:

    The reason for this issue was the decision a few years ago to double the walking distance to two miles.
    The school board claimed it saved them money, though the board members all got raises.
    Since the sidewalks were never laid out here that forced anyone who cared about their kids to drive them to and from school. We did it at Mantanzas and it was a pain. (Even after the school opened in 2005 the City never installed a side walk on Old Kings.)
    Disband the entire board of Ed, principals will run the schools, a Director will run the Education Dept. and their will be plenty of funds to provide bus service for the kids.

  18. blondee says:

    I suppose kids just can’t handle walking 2 miles uphill both ways in the snow like we did! :)

  19. Veteran says:

    Let’s face the facts. Kids today are spoiled. Too early to catch the bus then go to bed earlier. Cursing, bullying and bad behavior on bus, guess what, it happens everywhere. I walked 3/4 mile to kindergarten, then later 2 miles to Jr. high. My mother didn’t drive and my father was gone to work at 6 AM. Suck it up kids!

  20. Anonymous says:

    soo the school district and city had horrible planning-built schools on main roads-knowing it would eventually have high enrollment rates–and this is now the parents problem?…

    great job again flagler county!

  21. Wtf says:

    I hated taking the bus I would rather walk home instead. It was like the bully’s had their victims contained for awhile and they would terrorize whoever they could. Parents you are smart not to put your child on the bus. 🤓

  22. FPCHS STUDENT says:

    As a bus rider, I feel that it is not safe to cram 70 students into a bus with only 1 driver and think it’s safer, any one distraction could cause a horrific accident. Bullying is also a big concern because all these students at varying age levels don’t get along. At Old Kings and Buddy Taylor there is almost no room for more busses to load/unload as they are already double parked when doing so and that creates a bad environment where students have to walk by these engines and breathe in the dangerous chemicals emitted from the bus.

  23. palmcoaster says:

    I agree with Jim above. That decision to double the walking distance to one and two miles is what we see today. We lack proper sidewalks for one to two mile walks for kids.
    Regarding Veteran: The world was different, better and safer when you and I were kids and less cars on the roads also, that is why I agree with Jim in spite that I no longer have children students. I pay taxes for all students to be safe but instead are wasted in higher administrators overpaid and this “actual for profit” charters
    now. This is the real and only difference from when Veteran and I were students!
    Let me remind you all that the taxes we pay are supposed to be used to serve the taxpayers first and are not!

  24. Momof3 says:

    “Spoiled kids” is definitely the wrong term to use because I’m sure majority of kids would love to walk to school!
    It’s the BAD adults that we have to worry, about kidnapping our children..Also seems to be a lot of kids getting hit by cars here in Palm Coast. So parents have to stress that too.
    Good parents are the ones who worry about the safety of their kids, and teach their kids what’s right and what’s wrong.
    The bad kids on the bus ruin it for the good ones. I myself would never want my kids to walk to school or ride the bus.
    I understand many parents don’t have that choice.

    Add sidewalks in every neighborhood and more police patrolling and they may be safer to walk to school or wait for bus…and let’s remove every sexual predator of this planet!

  25. Children's safety says:

    I had issues with the bus. Punk kids and bullies. No matter how many times I complained, nothing was done. My child had to ride the same bus as her bully. They never did anything to fix or improve the situation. Some of the bus drivers should not be bus drivers. One of them pulled my daughter’s seat belt so tight that she had a red mark on her hips and waist. Nothing was done about that situation either. That led me to transport my child back and forth to school. They have a lot of fixing up before my child ever goes back on the bus, much less back to Flagler County public schools.

  26. Wtf says:

    Public school buses and public schools are a haven for preditors of all ages👹Absolutely grotesque. What is the answer. No one knows

  27. woodchuck says:

    Stop using school choice to send your kids to school.Go to the school that’s assigned to.In some instances a.k.a. bullying, parents driving them is fine. This would cut the car rider line by more than half.

  28. Bill harvey says:

    First of all just to bring this up many parents drop their kids off at school because they are on their way to work you’re going to tell that parent that they have to wait at home and be late for work it doesn’t work that way. First of all just to bring this up many parents drop their kids off at school because they are on their way to work you’re going to tell that parent that they have to wait at home and be late for work it doesn’t work that way. Second, unfortunately my grandson was bullied kindergarten and first grade he does however come home on the bus but his mom takes him to school in the morning when she goes to work . I really don’t think the school board has any right to tell any parent what they can do you cannot force someone in our society to ride the school bus if they do not want to . Imagine schools in town center had a problem with traffic they fix the problem there was no more waiting in line on Town Center, Road for those people who are not going in to imagine schools so I really think Flagler County School board use your heads this time you can figure this out do not pay $2000 again for wasted cement slabs those were nothing but a waste of money. Before those slabs were laid down questions came up how is that supposed to protect a child the child was killed crossing the street not standing next to a slab of cement .

  29. steve miller says:

    The kids don’t want to ride with some of the crazy school bus drives out there….once their behind the wheel they made up all their own rules…the don’t stop where they are supposed to…they don’t turn the A/C on in the bus…they are terrible drivers and speed all the time….and they tell the kids they can’t talk or use their phones etc…would you want to ride the bus?
    at BTES they could open up the fenced in lot on the north side for more car riders to be picked up

  30. joe bagodonuts says:

    starts at home, raise your kids to be more respectful.

  31. DRedder says:

    Bill Harvey is spot on.
    The Scool Board pays the Drivers crap but pay a BOE Secretary a starting wage almost double. The drivers do write up reports on misbehaving kids but then must jump thru hoops over and over again to have a kid punish/removed as the school board of feckless and afraid of PC backlash.
    You want responsible professional drivers to chauffer your kids pay them a starting wage of $18.00, if they are Retiree’s with their own benefits then bump it to $20.00

  32. LTR Joan says:

    There is a problem in neighborhoods where kids catch buses also. Parents allow their children to ride skate boards, scooters and small bikes while waiting for their bus. Makes it quite dangerous because of our curved roads within each section. I’ve had a mother in a rush actually pass while I was navigating the youngsters.

  33. George says:

    Try leaving Old Kings Elementary School when car riders are leaving. The traffic can be backed up from the school on Old Kings road, all the way to highway 100, all the way to Burger King. It’s not an exaggeration, this literally happens. Some parents are parked and waiting in the car rider line at 12:00pm to pick their kids up at 3:30pm. REALLY, I’m not joking, I’m not exaggerating.

    When I went to school there was no “car rider line”, we all rode the bus. If a parent needed to pick up a or drop off a child, they went over to the side. Of course there were occasionally problems on the bus, but 99% of the time it was mostly a sleepy and boring bus ride. What changed in 20 years? This excessive hand holding is making all parties involved into giant, whiny crybabies.

  34. kamamani says:

    woodchuck, half of the students at each school are not school choice, so your assumption that eliminating school choice would cut car riders by “more than half” is less than accurate. Also, read the other comments…students do not feel safe on the buses. This is one study which did not look at the incidences of bullying and other safety issues on the buses, it only looked at transportation patterns around the schools. The safety of our children is a much broader subject than just transportation patterns. The District should not consider any major changes based on this one study of one aspect of student transportation safety :/

    Also, the accidents involving students last year involved bike riders and bus riders, not car riders. The tragic accident in which a little girl was fatally injured happened as she was on her way to the bus stop. We have heard of neighborhood watch programs…why not a program for parents to take turns as crossing guards/safety guards at bus stops and bus monitors on the buses? I think that would improve the safety of our children much more than reducing the number of car riders!

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