Cour­tesy seat­ing too timely, say moth­ers

Par­ents with chil­dren in child­care wait un­til Oc­to­ber for bus ap­proval

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

It’s a new school year and some par­ents in the Conception Bay North area told The Com­pass last week Septem­ber will be a has­sle ar­rang­ing trans­porta­tion for their chil­dren.

Three moth­ers of chil­dren that at­tend school in the re­gion are dis­ap­pointed in the length of time it takes for cour­tesy seat­ing to get ar­ranged for their schools. Cour­tesy seat­ing is when a par­ent re­quests to have their chil­dren go on a bus that is not along the route to their civic ad­dress or when a child lives less than 1.6 kilo­me­tres from the school.

The moms, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied out of fear of back­lash, have pri­mary-aged chil­dren that at­tend af­ter­school child­care. None of them live along that bus route.

An ap­pli­ca­tion must be filled out and handed in to the school to re­quest a bus change each year.

On Wed­nes­day, Sept. 9, par­ents of reg­is­tered stu­dents at the school re­ceived a recorded mes­sage no­ti­fy­ing them it would be at least the end of Septem­ber be­fore cour­tesy seat­ing re­quests would be con­sid­ered by ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The New­found­land and Labrador English School Dis­trict con­firmed they have poli­cies in place for cour­tesy seat­ing.

“The school ad­min­is­tra­tor should wait un­til Oc­to­ber 1st be­fore ap­prov­ing cour­tesy seats as the ( first) month of the school year is filled with nu­mer­ous late regis­tra­tions and stu­dent trans­fers. How­ever, if it is clearly ev­i­dent that all cour­tesy seat re­quests can be ac­com­mo­dated, the school ad­min­is­tra­tor can ap­prove re­quests prior to this date,” the email from a spokesper­son for the dis­trict said.

The moth­ers agreed that they are aware there is a pol­icy in place and that those poli­cies are nec­es­sary so chil­dren that re­quire bus trans­porta­tion get ac­cess to it. But they dis­agree that it should take a month to es­tab­lish how many seats are avail­able on a route.

“In essence, schools also need to en­sure that all bus el­i­gi­ble riders are ac­com­mo­date first, prior to cour­tesy seat­ing as­sign­ments be­ing made,” the school dis­trict spokesper­son ex­plained. “We must en­sure ap­pro­pri­ate space is avail­able be­fore cour­tesy seat­ing is pro­vided. At times, stu­dents who are el­i­gi­ble to ride the bus do not be­gin do­ing so un­til later in Septem­ber and we must en­sure there is space avail­able for them.”

One of the moth­ers, who is a full­time post sec­ondary stu­dent, said she can’t leave school in the mid­dle of a class five days a week to bring her child to day­care.

“It’s re­ally frus­trat­ing,” she told The Com­pass.

Another mother, who works full­time, ex­plained she doesn’t have flex­i­bil­ity in her sched­ule to come and go.

They have been try­ing to make other ar­range­ments for their chil­dren to get to child­care for the re­main­der of the month, but are also aware that they may not get ap­proved for cour­tesy seat­ing if space does not per­mit.

El­i­gi­ble stu­dents that re­quest a change in route will get pri­or­ity over those who live less than 1.6 kilo­me­tres to the school. There are 70 pas­sen­gers al­lowed on each bus for pri­mary/ele­men­tary stu­dents.

A child may also lose their pri­or­ity seat with one week’s no­tice if another child re­quires use of that bus.

“As with ev­ery­thing we do, the safety of each stu­dent must be at the fore­front and schools need to en­sure ar­range­ments are made with this in mind,” said the spokesper­son.

For now, the fam­i­lies wait­ing for cour­tesy seat­ing ap­proval for day­care cen­tres will have to find al­ter­nate trans­porta­tion for their chil­dren af­ter school.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Cour­tesy seat­ing on school buses in New­found­land and Labrador will not be de­ter­mined un­til at least late Septem­ber.

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