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Martin County School Board reinstates last year's bus stops

Posted at 2:17 PM, Aug 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-11 23:28:16-04

The Martin County School District decided Friday afternoon to reinstate 90 bus stops that were previously removed from routes for the upcoming school year.

More than 600 children were impacted, learning their bus stops were being eliminated because their walk to school is no longer considered hazardous.

The district was working to comply with a state law that changed in 2015, redefining what are considered hazardous walking conditions, and which bus routes the school district could be reimbursed for within two miles of the student's school.

Parents were outraged. Some parents explained their kids would have to cross US 1 or pass by sex offenders' homes or a homeless camp to walk to school.

As a result, Friday, the school board held an emergency meeting and decided to reverse its decision and bring back 90 bus stops until they can better evaluate what's hazardous and what's not.

It's something Martin County Sheriff William Snyder strongly suggested in an exclusive interview with NewsChannel 5 on Thursday.

Superintendent Laurie Gaylord responded to the outcry, saying her hands were tied and this was ultimately a decision made by the state legislators.

Friday, Sheriff William Snyder praised the school board's decision to reinstate all of the bus stops from the previous school year.

"Had the routes been eliminated, it would have been extremely difficult to provide for the safety of the children. I don't think it would have been possible," Snyder said.

Parents had the same sentiment. "I feel relieved because they decided to do the right thing. I think the media and public outcry, they're not going to chose money over our children's safety," said Parent David Collier.

Superintendent Laurie Gaylord said the board also reversed the decision Friday because of new information that came to their attention just this week.

Gaylord says the district received a spreadsheet from Martin County's Engineering Department detailing areas in the county that are still considered hazardous for walking, according to state law, but would not have a bus stop.

With this new information, Gaylord said the District could not take any risks. There was not enough time to plan all new routes, so the district resorted to using the plan from last year.

"I like to make the best decisions with all the information. So, I think that's why the emergency meeting knowing school starts in 2 days, we wanted to make sure those students arrived to school safely," Gaylord said.

But some parents questioned why the district received the critical safety information only this week, after the final bus route was established.

A spokeswoman for Martin County said this information has been available for months, but the school district never requested the county to send the information.

County spokeswoman, Martha Ann Kneiss, explained the school district sent surveys to parents around the end of the last school year to help the district identify any hazardous conditions officials might not know about.

Those surveys were given to the county engineering department. That department researched what state law identified as hazardous walking conditions. They used that information, while looking at complaints expressed in the parent surveys, and created a spreadsheet, showing more than a dozen areas where bus stops were eliminated, but still hazardous, according to law.

Kneiss says the county expected the district to request that information.

The county sent out the information this week to the school district and to Sheriff Snyder, when Kneiss says Snyder asked the county for any available information regarding hazardous conditions.

Martin County schools reopen Tuesday.