Students across Central Florida face back-to-school changes

Courtesy busing ends in Lake County

MOUNT DORA, Fla. - Hundreds of Lake County students, newly without bus service, will be forced to walk to school on roads their parents say are dangerous.

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The Lake County School Board decided to end courtesy busing, which allowed for students in a school's walking range to get picked up by a bus despite their proximity to campus. The end of the service came as the county faced a $16 million budget gap, according to a district spokesman.

Without the service, several hundred students may have to walk to school in areas without sidewalks and crosswalks. Some students also need to cross train tracks to get to school, another safety concern for parents.

Parents are worried about students walking near Old U.S. Highway 441 near Eudora Road, just down the street from Triangle Elementary and U.S. 27 and State Road 44 in Leesburg, near Leesburg Elementary.

"I was afraid that the cars might not have stopped," said 8-year-old Reyna Martinez, a student at Triangle Elementary who has to walk across the busy intersection with her family.

Many protested last week at a regularly scheduled school board meeting, but the district said it couldn't afford the $500,000 service.

"They should have kept safety and did away with something else -- in the office or did away with road services or building bridges (or) whatever. They should have kept safety in place for these babies," said parent Jamie Mullins.

A schools spokesman recommended parents look at arranging carpools or just drive their students to school themselves if they are uncomfortable with students walking.

"Lake Express will be out in our city council meeting just to talk about some route changes and some questions might come up about how it can assist," said Kelda Senior of the city of Mount Dora.

Lake XPress would waive the fee for students to travel, but parents say they would probably want to ride with them.

Meanwhile, in Orange County, high school students will return to school equipped with metal detectors for added security.

And in Volusia County, parents and students at University High will see new traffic patterns after an accident in which a student was killed while trying to cross U.S. Highway 17-92.

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