CBN parents balking at busing plans
A school board policy that has been in place for a number of years is now causing plenty of grief for parents in the Conception Bay North region.
This September, students who find themselves inside a 1.6-kilometre buffer zone surrounding their neighbourhood school will not be able to get on a bus in the morning.
It’s a rule that has been in place for a number of years, but is being enforced this fall as the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District reconfigures its busing routes and school start times in an attempt to save money.
It’ll be the parent’s responsibility to make sure their children get to school in the mornings and after school. For many of them, that’ll mean putting their children on the road and seeing them walk to school at times when there is barely any light.
“It’s just a short 10-minute walk to school — across the very busy four-lane highway 70 that runs through Bay Roberts,” said parent Michelle Gallant, who lives inside Coley’s Point Primary’s buffer zone. “Once we get across, it’s just a few hundred feet to the school on a narrow side street where we can choose to walking a bush on one side of the road or a mall parking lot on the other.”
Quickly after the news got to parents about the changes to bus routes and start times last week, a Facebook group sprung up to combat the issues.
For many children, it means walking along roads that are without sidewalks — in many places there are no crosswalks painted — and having to cross roads that are busy in the early morning hours.
In the case of Coley’s Point Primary, it means have to cross a treacherous-at best four-lane portion of the Conception Bay Highway.
Couple that with the revised start times, and parents believe that is a recipe for disaster.
“A large number of kids will have to start walking to school as early as 7 to 7:15 a.m. to make the early start time,” said parent Angela Best. “Come this fall not only will it be fall and the temperatures will be dropping but winter will soon be upon us and at this time of day it will still be dark, cold, snow and icy out.
“Most rural areas do not have proper pedestrian thoroughfares but most urban areas do not either, making the trek to school for most youngsters very dangerous.”
Best is a mother of two children who attend Amalgamated Academy in Bay Roberts.
She said the high volume of traffic on a lot of these roads, along with the amount of blind turns along the stretch could prove deadly.
There’s also the loss of services, like the Tutoring for Tuition program, that will be gone due to the earlier start times at schools.
However, it’s not just in Bay Roberts where parents who are going to feel the pinch come the fall. Spaniard’s Bay parents are in a similar boat.
“I do not agree with putting a five-year-old on the road and making him walk to school that early in the morning,” said resident Debbie Sheppard. “There are no lights and no pretty sidewalks.
“I’ve informed my son’s school already that he will be late everyday.”
The school district does have a program called courtesy seating. It’s a program that could see some of the students inside the catchment area get a seat on a bus route providing the stop does not alter the route, is consistent with district bus stop guidelines and is a safe location for a bus to stop.
There is a catch to this, however. Courtesy seating will not be available until a month into the school year.
“It would be wonderful if more students could walk to school to relieve the congestion, but that’s a scary thought on this street,” said Gallant. “I understand that money needs to be saved, but this is not the place to save it.
“We need to know our children can get to school safely.”