Clearwater, Florida -- Dozens of students of all ages scurried across one of the area's most-dangerous intersections -- Gulf to Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road -- on the first day of school without a crossing guard.
A crossing guard was killed at the intersection in May and the Pinellas County School District decided to stop using crossing guards in the area. Instead, the district buses students from Oak Grove Middle School to their classes to keep them safe.
Still, on Monday afternoon, 10 News watched students of all ages walking, riding their bikes and skateboarding across busy intersection.
"Local municipalities and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office provide crossing guards for elementary and middle school students," said Melanie Marquez Parra, a spokeswoman for Pinellas schools. "The one exception in Pinellas County is in Largo where the city provides crossing guards for Largo High at the intersection of Missouri and East Bay Drive. That is a decision the city made."
Dozens of students of all ages scurried across one of the area's most-dangerous intersections without a crossing guard. WTSP
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Parra adds, "Florida statutes define criteria for unsafe walk routes only for elementary students. The understanding is that high school students can safely cross streets with controlled intersections."
Four of the students crossing the roadway did tell 10 News they attend Clearwater High School and they all say they have never had a crossing guard help them.
Rod Barriner was in the area Monday afternoon and remembers the tragic death of the crossing guard at the end of the last school year because he was at the scene as emergency workers arrived.
"It was a sad moment. There was so much chaos." Barriner says he's seen a lot of accidents at the corner. "I don't think a lot of people be paying attention to what they really be doing."
Without a crossing guard at the intersection he worries about more accidents. "If they see the crossing guard maybe they'll respect the students that are there. It'll help the students out, too, because they'll see the crossing guard and go where the crossing guard is and won't take chances on their own."
Monday a portion of the intersection was blocked off for sidewalk improvements for the disabled. Florida's Department of Transportation says yellow flashing lights are being installed to warn impatient or careless drivers not to turn left into oncoming traffic and the crosswalks have already been repainted.
A resurfacing project is also in the works for the area along with several other improvements.
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