CBN par­ents balk­ing at bus­ing plans

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

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.”

Cour­tesy seat­ing

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.”

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