Pro­vin­cial pe­ti­tion calls for end to 1.6-km bussing rule

Par­ents fear for chil­dren’s safety while walk­ing to school

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - BY DANETTE DOOLEY SPE­CIAL TO THE PI­LOT

PRO­VIN­CIAL, NL — The death of a 17-year-old stu­dent killed while walk­ing to school in Cow Head on Sept. 11 has prompted a Con­cep­tion Bay South mother to call on govern­ment to pro­vide bussing for all school­child­ren – no mat­ter how near or far they live from their school.

Nancy Bur­ton said she has no idea if the stu­dent (17-year-old Justin Hynes, a Level III stu­dent at Long Range Academy) had ac­cess to a school bus.

“Just the fact that a stu­dent was killed spurred me on to do some­thing,” she said when con­tacted by phone.

Bur­ton’s pe­ti­tion calls for “Ac­cess to safe trans­porta­tion for every stu­dent K-12.” The pe­ti­tion gar­nered over 3,000 sig­na­tures in less than a week.

“(Stu­dents) are at­tend­ing schools that are not de­signed for the heavy flow of ve­hi­cle traf­fic for par­ent drop offs. Chil­dren are told to walk up to 1.6 kilo­me­tres in com­mu­ni­ties with no side­walks or even shoul­ders of the road to walk on. This causes safety is­sues, im­pedes staff from get­ting to the school, de­lays in em­ploy­ees get­ting to work and over­all dis­rup­tion for whole com­mu­ni­ties,” the pe­ti­tion reads.

Peo­ple from var­i­ous ar­eas of the prov­ince are sign­ing the pe­ti­tion which, Bur­ton said, will even­tu­ally be de­liv­ered to the pro­vin­cial govern­ment.

Their rea­sons for sup­port­ing Bur­ton’s ini­tia­tive are var­ied and speak to con­cerns in their par­tic­u­lar ar­eas.

Theresa Ed­wards is cur­rently liv­ing in Em­bree while wait­ing for her new home to be built on a street just out­side Lewis­porte. The area is within Lewis­porte town lim­its, Ed­wards said.

“My chil­dren (will) take the bus, but their bus stop is on a high­way with an 80 km/h speed limit, no side­walks and blind hills in both di­rec­tions,” Ed­wards wrote when sign­ing the pe­ti­tion.

When con­tacted about her con­cerns, Ed­wards said it wouldn’t be an in­con­ve­nience for the bus to stop on her new street once she’s moved to Lewis­porte.

“You can go in one side of our street and come out the other. It wouldn’t be out of the bus’s way to come pick them up,” she said.

As she pre­pares for the move into her new home, Ed­wards can’t help think­ing about the bussing sit­u­a­tion her chil­dren will face.

“I’m wor­ried about when I will get that call, that my kid has been hit by a car,” she said.

Ed­wards said she will con­tinue to speak out to have a stop on her street, not only for her chil­dren but also for other young fam­i­lies who will set­tle in the area.

When sign­ing the pe­ti­tion, Carol-Anne Barnes of Trout River noted her son and grand­chil­dren aren’t al­lowed on the bus, no mat­ter the weather.

“Rain, sleet, wind... don’t mat­ter... if they can’t get a ride they have to walk and then sit in class wet... there’s no side­walks here or cross­ing guards,” Barnes wrote.

Kathy LeDrew of Sal­mon Cove asked that the 1.6-kilo­me­tre rule be changed.

“If I wasn’t able to bring my son to school, he would have to walk the Sal­mon Cove main high­way with trans­port trucks, some that go at least 120 km/h. There’s barely a side­walk and in the win­ter time there is noth­ing but ice and (stu­dents) are forced out onto the road to walk to school. Kids as young as four years old,” she wrote.

Govern­ment pri­or­ity

In­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment’s (EECD) noted that pro­vid­ing a safe, re­li­able school trans­porta­tion sys­tem is, and al­ways has been, a govern­ment pri­or­ity.

The depart­ment’s school bus trans­porta­tion pol­icy out­lines the con­di­tions un­der which fund­ing is pro­vided to boards for bus trans­porta­tion ser­vices to stu­dents at­tend­ing pri­mary, ele­men­tary and sec­ondary schools, the state­ment read.

Un­der the pol­icy, fund­ing is not pro­vided to school boards to cover the trans­porta­tion of stu­dents who live within 1.6 kilo­me­tres of their zoned neigh­bour­hood school.

Ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment, the 1.6-kilo­me­tre cri­te­rion in New­found­land and Labrador is com­pa­ra­ble to the other prov­inces in Canada.

Where space per­mits, the depart­ment said, there may be cour­tesy seats avail­able – which is ad­min­is­tered through the New­found­land and Labrador English School Dis­trict (NLESD).

A copy of govern­ment’s school bus trans­porta­tion pol­icy can be found on the depart­ment’s web­site at: edu/k12/bus­ing/trans­porta­tion_ poli­cies.pdf.

To sign Bur­ton’s pe­ti­tion visit and search Nancy Bur­ton.

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