Eastern Wake News

Rural stops are considered safest, WCPSS says

Older sudents at Knightdale Elementary help younger ones onto their buses during afternoon dismissal. Many students at KES and other schools in eastern Wake County are dropped off in rural areas, usually right outside their front doors.
Older sudents at Knightdale Elementary help younger ones onto their buses during afternoon dismissal. Many students at KES and other schools in eastern Wake County are dropped off in rural areas, usually right outside their front doors. mhankerson@newsobserver.com

At 7:15 in the morning every school day, Jeannie Latham takes her two nieces and nephew to the bus stop, about a block from their home on Fowler Road in Zebulon.

They wait at the corner of Fowler and Hopkins Chapel roads for about 15 minutes on the porch of an abandoned building.

Every once in a while, when a car goes by too fast, Latham said she yells at them to slow down.

Wake County Public Schools say rural stops, like the one Latham and her nieces and nephew wait at, tend to be ‘doorside’ and are some of the safest in the county.

Wake County Public Schools spokesperson Lisa Luten said in rural areas, stops are often door-side when there is little room on a road shoulder for a student to safely stand.

Many parents consider ‘doorstop’ bus stops to be the safest, Luten said.

More populated suburban areas are where stops have several students, may be on busier roads and may not be right outside a student’s door.

Wendell Middle School student Keith Jones was killed two weeks ago while standing at his bus stop on the 2500 block of Edgemont Road near Wendell. His stop was at his house but Efren Vences of Clayton hit Jones with his 1989 Crown Victoria, sending the 13-year-old facedown in a ditch, where his mother found him.

The placement of his bus stop is not a consideration in the investigation.

Lenora Dawson, who lives on Mill Pond Road in Zebulon, has four children who get on the bus at the end of the family’s driveway.

Her 10th- and 11th-grader go out on their own in the morning, although Dawson watches from the door. Her 7th-grader and kindergartner often wait on the porch with her until they see bus lights coming down the road.

When they leave the porch, Dawson still doesn’t allow them to go past a certain point on the driveway until the bus stops.

“I was a bus driver in Franklin County for 12 years myself … so I’m going to do this,” she said.

Dawson has lived at her current address for about six years and has never had problems with her children standing at their stop.

Latham said she and her nieces and nephew have only lived at their current address for about three months.

When they moved to their current home, their bus stop was further away than Latham would have liked.

“When we first got a bus stop, it was all the way down the street,” she said. “It was about a 15-minute walk.”

The bus driver suggested consolidating two stops, to avoid the walk. Even now, Latham isn’t sure why the bus doesn’t stop in front of their house, since it goes right past it.

“I just don’t like that they don’t do house stops anymore,” she said. It can make it stressful for her if an adult is running late to get the kids from the stop, she said.

Before that, their bus stop was right off N.C. 96 and the bus picked them up right outside their home.

The Wake County school board established a policy that governs what criteria should be considered when creating a bus stop. The policy cites adequate lighting, safe pathways to the stop, space for multiple students, consideration of approaching motorists’ views, street traffic and volume and space for the bus to safely turn around.

Wake County schools has received 1,177 requests from parents to change a bus stop because of safety concerns. Luten said that number is a small fraction of the county's total number of bus stops and could be misleading.

Since requests regarding safety are prioritized and addressed first, Luten said some parents may mark them as safety when they are not.

Luten said many requests are about changing bus stops back to old stops, not safety.

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