No way home

Benalla Ensign - - News - By Fraser Walker-Pearce

Ta­tong chil­dren will lose their seats on the school bus next year be­cause the Vic­to­rian Govern­ment has re­fused re­quests to pro­vide a larger one.

At least four fam­i­lies from the Ta­tong area will no longer be able to ac­cess the bus next year, which Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan said was ‘‘just wrong’’.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, based on el­i­gi­bil­ity, some of the Ta­tong stu­dents will be the first to be re­moved to ac­com­mo­date in­creased num­bers (en­rolling at Greta),’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘I do not be­lieve the cri­te­ria has taken into ac­count the fact that Swan­pool and Baddagin­nie cam­puses of Per­an­bin Pri­mary School com­bine to spend one week in Swan­pool and the next at Baddagin­nie, 27 km fur­ther away.’’

A num­ber of fam­i­lies moved to the area years ago, when Ta­tong Pri­mary School was open, with the hopes of en­rolling their chil­dren there.

But since the school’s clo­sure, the fam­i­lies have sent their chil­dren to the next clos­est, Greta Val­ley Pri­mary School.

Liz Wood, whose seven-yearold is en­rolled at Greta Val­ley, said the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion was not try­ing to un­der­stand the com­mu­nity’s prob­lems.

‘‘Ta­tong is much closer to Greta, and it makes sense for us to go there, but the DoE is rul­ing to the let­ter of the law that they can’t help us,’’ she said.

Larissa Mont­gomery, who has two chil­dren at Greta Val­ley, said af­fected par­ents had been proac­tive in try­ing to come up with a so­lu­tion.

‘‘The school (Greta) has gone above and beyond to be work­ing with the par­ents, and have put for­ward sub­mis­sions to the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion (James Mer­lino),’’ Ms Mont­gomery said.

‘‘The bus op­er­a­tor even of­fered to go an ex­tra 5 km a day for free to en­sure that those kids can get on the bus each day.’’

Ms Ryan said a larger school bus was also re­quested, but de­nied be­cause the cur­rent bus was only 10 years old.

‘‘The need for a big­ger bus is clear ... (but) a sim­ple route ex­ten­sion will en­sure that no stu­dents are left with­out a bus,’’ she said.

Par­ent Emma Cavalot said if noth­ing changed, she would have to ap­proach her em­ployer to change her work hours just so she could en­sure her young chil­dren could get to and from school each day.

The changes are due to come in to ef­fect on Jan­uary 1.

Trans­port dilemma: Ta­tong par­ents stand with their chil­dren out­side the school bus stop on the cor­ner of Molyul­lah-Ta­tong and Kil­feera roads. The chil­dren will lose their seats on the bus next year if an al­ter­na­tive route is not found.

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