GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – Before the sun rose over Green Cove Springs on Tuesday morning, a Clay High School student was hit by a car as they walked across State Road 16 to school.
Students and parents said the student is OK, but the incident drew strong reactions from parents who said recent changes at the school may affect student safety.
Kids leaving school Wednesday afternoon could be seen running in and out of traffic on the busy road.
For parents like Brenda Roberts it confirms their worst fears.
"I just worry about all of them," Roberts said Wednesday. "I mean, they are teenagers and everything is all about them, and they are not paying attention a lot of times."
She and other parents who emailed News4Jax are calling attention to the noticeable change in police presence in front of the school.
"Something needs to be done before a student gets badly hurt. I'm thankful the kid this morning is OK, but I believe it could have been prevented," Marty Griffis wrote in an email to News4Jax.
Roberts said last year, there was a resource officer who stopped traffic on State Road 16 when the buses exited the school.
"People always knew he was there, so people were slowing down," Roberts said.
Thursday morning, after this story aired, students like Diana Domingos said they noticed a difference. "We used to see kids just try and run past," Domingos explained. "Now we see kids kind of wait until they're for sure that there're no cars coming." She said school officials even made an announcement after the accident to warns kids to be extra cautious.
"In the announcement, they said to have your phone flashlight on. This way bypassing cars could see you more clearly. And to really just prevent any more accidents from occurring," Domingos said.
But parents like Missy Batton believe more needs to be done.
"They need somebody there to help those kids because traffic does not stop. They literally have to take a chance to try to get across. It worries me every day. Sometimes it takes my breath," Batton said on Thursday. "I would just like to see one of the cops to help the kids get through at least in the morning and the evening."
The school didn't have a crossing guard last year and doesn't have a crossing guard this year.
According to the Clay County Sheriff's Office, Florida law doesn't require high schools to have an assigned crossing guard, although some do because of the numbers of students crossing the street in certain areas.
The Sheriff's Office said before a new school safety law and a new police force took over as school resource officers, a Clay County deputy handled traffic control in front of the schools.
"Before the Stoneman Douglas Act, the Clay High deputy would observe traffic control from the front of the school using his patrol vehicle's emergency lights. Due to the Stoneman Act, the deputy was not allowed to sit in front of the school but assigned inside the school, leaving parents to believe that the deputy had been removed," Sgt. Kenny West said in a statement. "The Clay County deputy was removed from Clay High School as of September 30 due to the Clay County School Board Police assuming our duties."
News4Jax asked the Clay County School District what it plans to do to make this road safer, and it issued a written response:
"Our Director of Safety and Security said this is a state road issue; however, he is meeting with the county public works director this week to discuss a request being made to the state regarding additional signage. We are working with the appropriate agencies to see what can be done to make this area safer."