Making school safety cool again | Clermont News Leader | #schoolsaftey

Lake Minneola High School parents met October 24 to discuss their next moves in their fight for better school safety after the tragic death of a student.

Senior Isaiah ‘Sherman’ Vannoy was cycling to school when he was killed in an accident involving a school bus making a turn into the school grounds at Hancock Road and Fox Trail Avenue.

The October 2 death of the popular young man who was just days away from his 18th birthday sent shock waves through the entire community and parents vowed that his death would not be in vain.

The parent’s group, who have named themselves The Hawk Eyes, meet twice a month to discuss ways of pushing forward with their quest to avoid another tragedy.

Already safety improvements have been made at the North Hancock Road school. These include new lights coming on at 6.30am and parents taking it in turns to hold signs at the side of the road to alert drivers that they are in a school zone.

But there is still so much more to do.

The Hawk Eyes parent Joanna O’Halloran, whose freshman daughter Hannah walks to school every morning, bought six signs to put in different roads in Minneola Reserve saying, “Slow Down. This Is A Neighborhood Not A Racetrack.”

She also ironed-on reflective stripes to Hannah’s backpack. She said: “We are trying to make being safe cool again. There’s only so much we can do with getting the city, the county, and the police to change things – ultimately, we need to educate the kids on how they can keep themselves safe.”

Another member of the group, Stephanie Naranjo, has two daughters at Lake Minneola High School. Aliza is a senior and Sienna is a junior.

“Improving school safety is super important – one life lost is too many,” Naranjo said. “We are doing this for every child now and for our future generations of Lake Minneola students. 

“We know we have an uphill battle, but we are prepared for the fight. Everybody at that school was impacted the day Sherman was killed and collectively as parents, we will make the change happen. It’s not going to be today or tomorrow, but we will see this through.”

At the meeting, the parents met with City of Minneola Council member Erick Hernandez and resident Nathan Focht, who is running for city mayor.

Mr Hernandez told the group that the city will be installing permanent lights at the Big Sky Development on North Hancock Road close to the school. He is also recording driver’s speeds with a radar gun.

“Although I haven’t got a date for these lights, they are happening,” Hernandez said. “The data from the radars will be used to assess how dangerous the area is and will give city and county officials an idea of how big of a problem it is with speeding drivers.

“I think if we focus on immediate needs that we can do something about right now, like lights and speeding signs, it’s a good start. Then we can look at other factors.” 

Mr Hernandez was meeting with the Lake County Board of Commissioners in Tavares October 31 to discuss increasing the school zone signal timing, and the idea of a manned pedestrian crossing.

The Hawks Eyes are planning to organize fundraising events to buy reflective gear for the kids and bigger signs. They are also trying to secure special education for the children on how to stay safe.

“We have made a positive start,” said mom Kristina Cumbie, whose son Gabriel knew Sherman. Since he was killed, she has stood with home-made signs at the side of the street, lobbied the city council for help, and she helped start The Hawk Eyes group with other parents.

“Now we must keep the momentum going. We will not give up on our kids and we don’t expect the city or the county to either. Things have got to change to avoid another tragedy.”

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