Two parents are preparing for the upcoming Department of Administrative hearing against the St. Johns County School District’s because of the district's decision to cut buses in the St. Johns Forest neighborhood.
Public records show 26 actions have been presented to the DOAH. The next hearing is set for January.
The School Board made the decision to cut buses in this area in October. Several parents have said they expressed concerns over their decision.
Jay Nieman, who lives in the St. Johns Forest neighborhood and has two children who attend Liberty Pines Academy, gave Action News Jax an email that appears to be from Director of Transportation, Alfred Pantano. It shows a map they have designed for children in this neighborhood to take to the school, with a portion near 9B.
Neiman said the traffic in this area should be taken into consideration for this change.
“Before you put children’s lives at risk, I think you look to cut everything else or you look for alternative funding,” Nieman said.
A district spokesperson told Action News Jax they added 11 more buses to their routes this school year. But when Action News Jax asked for a comment about parents’ concerns, she said they cannot comment on pending litigation.
“I think the vehicle flipping over and landing on its roof the other day punctuates that the danger is not theoretical, it’s real,” Nieman said.
The Florida Department of Transportation recently made changes to this walkway, by widening the sidewalks and added new lights. State law also states that students who live within two miles of their school will not be provided a bus stop in their neighborhood.
The Florida Department of Education told Action News Jax it is up to the local district to decide if this area is safe for students to walk to school.
Through public records, Action News Jax found the budget report for St. Johns County School District from 2016 to 2018. It showed the Student Transportation department had more than $5,000 dollars added to their budget from last year, while more than 15 other departments had cuts in their budgets.
The bus changes for St. Johns Forest neighborhood are scheduled to take place at the beginning of January. Nieman said he will continue to fight the district’s decision.
“All I can do is show up to the hearing, make the best argument I can, examine the witnesses, try to get the testimony on the record. If we lose there, potentially try to go the First District Court of Appeals and try to get a reversal there.”
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