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Fight over courtesy busing continues in Hillsborough County

Posted at 5:38 PM, Aug 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-21 17:56:53-04

FISHHAWK, Fla. -- Local parents are still demanding bus routes for their kids, two years after Hillsborough County did away with courtesy busing for kids that live within miles miles of their schools.

Josephine Amato has led the fight with her advocacy group Safe Bus for Us and says the district is using a FishHawk CDD built trail that’s on TECO energy property to measure the distance.

But she doesn’t think the trail is safe.

"If a child were to get abducted here no one would realize that for a little while,” she said.

TECO nearly closed the trail Tuesday after it said the sidewalk needed to be repaired.

"This is private property -- it’s closed from dusk till dawn, it is not a safe walking route for children to go to school," said Amato.

She wants to know who would be liable if a student was hurt on the trail. Neither TECO or the district could answer that question.

"The school district is utilizing this private land in order to deny children a school by a school bus because the other pass is more dangerous believe it or not which is Lithia Pinecrest Road.”

But, the Hillsborough County School District says by Florida statute, it’s required to find the shortest pedestrian path to school. They say the trail is a public sidewalk and can be used to measure the 2-mile radius to Randall Middle and Newsome high school to determine who gets a bus and who doesn’t.

"In a county with the second-highest pedestrian death rates we need to take this very seriously,” Amato said.

The attorney for the FishHawk CDD, Biff Craine, says the trail was never meant to be a transit corridor for students going to school, rather a nature trail. They aren't monitoring it 24-7.

He says the trail sometimes floods during storms and trees often fall in the pathway. He says they've asked the school board to do a review of using the trail as a walking route for students, and to not incorporate that into their decision of who gets busing but says it hasn't been done.

The district provided a bus Wednesday morning to kids after they thought the trail was closed for repairs to avoid Lithia Pinecrest and Boyette. Both roads are busy with little to no sidewalks.

The district agreed the hazardous walking condition laws needs to be changed and continue to work with lawmakers to see how it can be done and how additional busing can be funded.