A Clearwater girl says she faces a terrifying walk to the bus stop each day, and the school district will not change her bus route.
Anayah Francis, 13, walks a little less than a mile from her home to her bus stop near Duncan and Rainbow each day. The problem, her Aunt Phyllis Dillard says, is the fact that she must walk across a park filled with homeless people to get to the bus stop. Francis has been approached by homeless individuals twice, Dillard said.
Francis and Dillard were terrified, and Francis is now afraid to walk the route alone, she said.
Dillard has been pushing the school district to change where Francis gets picked up for more than a year with no luck, she said.
"Walking across this park is not going to be safe for her," Dillard said.
ABC Action News walked along Francis' daily route and there were more than a dozen homeless people gathered in the park.
"We ain't got nowhere else to be," one man told us.
"Just imagine what it would be like for a little 13-year-old walking," Dillard said. "I'm trying to get help. I'm trying to get the transportation department to realize and understand the seriousness of this."
Dillard said she is frustrated because there are several buses that go to Francis' school that pass right near her home, which would eliminate the need for Francis to walk near the park.
Dillard said she has tried to get a response from school transportation leaders over the course of several months, but did not get a call back until ABC Action News contacted the school district.
"It's been almost a year and half, and what it actually took was you all calling," she said.
So far, Pinellas County Schools told ABC Action News that Francis' bus route is okay for her to walk.
"After a complete and thorough review by the district’s transportation safety team, it was determined this stop is safe for students," said Lisa Wolf, school district spokesperson. "The stop services several students in the neighborhood, which makes moving the stop difficult, as we have to consider the needs of everyone."
However, after our call to the district, transportation leaders reached out again to Dillard. A meeting was scheduled for sometime next week to discuss the issue once again, Dillard said.
She is hoping they consider changing her niece's route or adding another closer stop to minimize the need to walk by the park.
"Working with me, them and I together, to find a safe way for her to get to and from her bus location." Dillard said.