ORANGE COUNTY – A missing strip of sidewalk near the Ficquette Road and Overstreet Road intersection — coupled with a state statute disqualifying some families from bus transportation — has some Windermere High parents worried about their child’s route to school.
The statute states families who live within a two-mile radius of a school do not qualify for busing. Unfortunately for students who reside in the Berkshire Park community, their walking or biking route also includes a half-mile stretch of road that lacks both a sidewalk and street lights.
The predicament has unsettled parents, some of whom are calling on Orange County and the Orange County School Board to install a sidewalk.
“The issue that the parents here have is that over on Overstreet Road, there’s a path that the kids would have to travel a little north leaving our subdivision going to Ficquette Road that is still zoned agricultural,” said Patrick Spikes, a Berkshire Park resident who has a middle school-age daughter who will be zoned for Windermere High School in two years. “So there are no sidewalks there or street lights. The concern is that (because) high-schoolers go to school so much earlier … is you’re going to have kids walking and riding bikes in the dark on a two-lane road that has no shoulder.”
Some families located in the back of the Berkshire Park subdivision, Spikes added, fall right under the two-mile mark at 1.9 miles. And some surrounding communities located a block or two down the road from Berkshire fall over the two-mile mark, qualifying them for bus pickup and drop-off.
Moreover, the eventual opening of Windermere High’s stadium will increase the need for a sidewalk network throughout the area.
“It’ll allow us to ride bikes to sporting events and allow the kids to go to school,” Spikes said. “And you’ve also got a lot of kids who will be in band, football, soccer or some other after-school extracurricular — how will those kids get home after school once they’re done?”
District 4 School Board Member Pam Gould said she is working with Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey to see if there are any short-term solutions that could help with the situation until a sidewalk is eventually installed.
“I am going to bring it up for further discussion with the board, but right now, the policy doesn’t give much wiggle room to alter the current busing situation,” Gould said. “But we are working pretty hard with Orange County to try and get the sidewalks put in faster.”
The School Board does not direct its attention to infrastructure improvements outside of the school property, Gould said, because the board does not collect money for that purpose. Gould also added that although it is possible to offer extra busing to some students, to make that happen, the board would need to pull money from other programs.
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]