Board members react to bus driver concerns
LEE COUNTY - The fight over your child's safety taking a new turn.
Two Lee County school board members are reacting to charges from bus drivers that the new routes put in place this year are unsafe and putting your kids in danger.
"I think we're hurting our kids," said bus driver Gayle Waters. "We should think about the kids. We're not thinking about the kids we're thinking about the bottom line."
In response to a transportation audit, the Lee County School District tightened routes, consolidating stops in an effort to cut down on painfully long bus rides, which Fox 4 first exposed.
Two bus drivers who spoke with us say that created unintended consequences. They say kids are walking farther to their bus stops and closer to main roads.
"Personally I don't see it," said Waters. "I think we should find other areas to cut back than our children."
Board member Mary Fischer says the changes are cutting down on fuel costs, wear and tear and long bus rides.
But one thing it's not cutting down on, she says, is safety.
"We don't think safety is being compromised," said Fischer. "But I would be very happy to visit anyone of the bus stops and observe for myself."
The district reevaluates bus stops each year. Fischer says the new routes are working even if kids have to walk a little farther.
"That little bit more of a walk...also shortens the bus rides and saves money on fuel," said Fischer, who called it a "happy medium."
We also spoke with board member Don Armstrong who pushed for change.
Armstrong says these new routes are actually safer.
"I don't feel the bus drivers concerns are founded in any way shape or form," said Armstrong. "We looked at the safest positions that we could to make sure our students are safe at all times."
Armstrong says more stops, especially in Cape Coral, are now in lighted areas.
He says the district's transportation troubles can't be fully solved without a change - like doing away with school choice and returning to neighborhood schools.
"Do you think that would solve these issues?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"It would solve a lot of 'em," said Armstrong, "a whole bunch."
The bus drivers issued a challenge to the board - to go with them on their routes to see what they see.
Armstrong and Fischer said they would be happy to take a look at specific bus stops the drivers feel are unsafe.
Matt Grant, Reporter