Lee County won’t change school bell times this year, adding lights at bus stops
Some kids in Lee County will still have to head out the door before daylight to catch the bus to school. That is because school start times will not change for the upcoming academic year.
But the Lee County school board said they are focused on making bus stops safer, including making sure they are not in the dark.
Nicole Fitzpatrick, a mother of seven children, has kids in elementary, middle and high school who have to take the bus. After the fatal hit-and-run deaths of two little girls at or near bus stops earlier this year, she wants the district to move the school start times later.
“When does it just happen?” Fitzpatrick said. “Why does it keep getting pushed off?”
Fitzpatrick also said more needs to be done to keep kids safe.
“I think their efforts are just piggybacking off of other efforts,” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t think that they really put anything into place.”
Debbie Jordan, a Lee County school board member, said it is not an easy fix.
“There’s so many things that go into bell times,” Jordan said. “The family dynamics, the safety, the daylight, the darkness.”
Bus routes and after-school activities also factor in. But even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thinks schools start too early. On the CDC website, it recommends that parents and school boards nationwide consider moving them no earlier than 8:30 a.m. because it could lead to better academic performance.
High schools in Lee County start at 7:05 a.m. and some elementary schools start at 7:55 a.m.
“We’re trying to please the majority,” Jordan said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to that 100%.”
The school board said it is taking other safety factors into account first. These include bus stops, bus safety, benches, lighting and anything else relating to the stop. Also, limiting school choice for elementary school based on proximity, which means shorter bus routes.
But Fitzpatrick said there is no time to waste.
“No they’re not working as fast as they can,” Fitzpatrick said. “This could’ve been changed before the next school year.”
Jordan said there will be a workshop this summer to discuss changing bell times for the following academic school year. After they discuss it, then they will have parents weigh in with their opinions.
Meanwhile, kids in Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres should see more light poles at their bus stops.
In a separate vein, that same list was provided to the Lehigh Acres Streetlighting MTSU which created lighting priorities for its taxing district. One of their identified priorities is to put streetlights at bus stops.