St. Johns County changes school bus routes, causes confusion, mixed feelings in one local community

ST.JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Parents in the Sevilla community of St. Johns County have mixed feelings about new changes to a bus route in the neighborhood.


Action News Jax told you last week about how some students who rode the bus last year, can no longer ride the bus this year.

The St. Johns County School District Transportation Department says that the sudden change has to do with a Florida State Statute referencing the Two-Mile Rule.

After adding traffic control devices to the crosswalk on International Golf Parkway, it is deemed safe. However, while several parents don’t qualify for the bus, others received an exception.

“They don’t have the competence to be able to walk to two miles with or without an adult,” Tom Waggestad, a concerned parent said.

After countless emails to the St. Johns County School District Transportation Department, Waggestad’s son, who is a kindergartener at Mill Creek Academy, can now ride the bus.

Read: ‘This is going to cause quite the stir:’ DCPS takes first look at pushing back school start times

Robby Smith lives a few blocks from Waggstad -- but he, nor his neighbor got the notification.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s a little ridiculous,” Smith said. “It doesn’t make any sense to put kids in harm’s way.”

A Florida State statute indicated if a student lives less than two miles away from school, and it’s deemed safe enough to walk, they are not eligible to ride a bus.

In a statement, the District’s Transportation Department said, “After the installation of the traffic control devices, the previously labeled hazardous walk zone was rendered “non-hazardous” walk zone per Gabby’s law and therefore was no longer funded per state statute.”

The criteria to identify hazardous walking conditions for students include if the posted speed limit is 50 miles per hour or greater and has six or more lanes.

International Golf Parkway has a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour with four lanes.

Smith says it’s still dangerous.

Read: Check school bus delays throughout Duval County

" International Golf Parkway might as well be International Gold speedway. And it’s not really a safe place, in my opinion of kids going up and down the roads.”

The statute indicates funds are allocated to fix a hazardous walking condition, but once it’s fixed, the funding stops.

“At what point do you say we got to kind of open up the purse strings just a little bit to make sure our kids are safe?” Waggestad said.

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Last year, parents say buses were running double routes. The transportation department said the change has nothing to do with double runs or staffing.

The state statute also defines a student to be mean “any public elementary school student whose grade level does not exceed grade 6.”

In 2015, The Florida Department of Education updated the determination for hazardous walking conditions to specify this. It states, “Only students who attend elementary school and do not exceed grade six are eligible for transportation.”

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