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Polk County mom pushes for school safety measures near Willow Oaks Elementary

Apryl Langlois says more sidewalk, signage, and crossing guard is needed
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Posted at 5:39 AM, Oct 19, 2021

MULBERRY, Fla. — Apryl Langlois moved her family to the Heritage neighborhood in Polk County because of the family atmosphere and proximity to the girl's schools. Primarily, her elementary school-aged daughter.

Hailing from Vermont, Langlois wanted her daughters to have a community feel. She thought she achieved that when she moved into the neighborhood that is walking distance to Willow Oaks Elementary school but on the first day of school she was told her daughter would be bused. That's not typical for a student who lives within a two-mile radius of a school.

"They are bused because they are categorized as a dangerous road to walk to school," Langlois said.

The road she's referring to is Bailey Road.

In several videos taken by Langlois, parents and students are seen running across the street to get to the school's campus. One video shows the sidewalk end before the school's entrance. She would like to see that expanded.

Another issue Langlois is concerned about is the lack of a crossing guard and road signage noting a school zone.

Bill Skelton with Polk County Roads and Drainage said he and others in the county are aware of the issues.

"It goes back to the issue where the Polk County Public Schools, they site these schools and often times there isn't the infrastructure, particularly sidewalk infrastructure, to link the neighboring community to the school," Skelton said.

The county has $2.25 million dollars to work with this year to address sidewalk issues.

Skelton said that funding can only address between twelve to fourteen sidewalks in a year's time.

Some of that money will be used near Willow Oaks Elementary.

"The proposed sidewalk provides connection from existing sidewalks on the east and on the north sides of the Bailey Road and Shepherd Road intersection to the Willow Oak Elementary School. Drainage complications and accompanying easement needs prohibit constructing the new sidewalk on the same side (east) as the school. There will be a crosswalk to access the school campus and a pedestrian signal at the Bailey Road and Shepherd Road intersection," Skelton said.

Skelton said there's no marked school zone or crossing guard near Willow Oaks Elementary because there's no sidewalk. He is hoping to see that remedied and put in place after the new installation.

As for additional sidewalk expansions in the area near the school, he said that will have to wait for next year's budget.

"New sidewalk for the remainder of Bailey Road from the Willow Oak Elementary School site to State Road 60 was considered by the SAC (Sidewalk Advisory Committee) in 2021 but was not prioritized for funding in the current fiscal year (FY 21-22) budget," Skelton said.

As for Langlois, she is hoping more is done before it's too late.

"Does it take a funeral for change? Why? Why do we have to wait for that?," Langlois said.

Skelton said county leaders are working to expedite the project and hope to begin work before the end of this school year.

For more information about the project or concerns along Polk County roads contact Bill Skelton at 863-535-2230.