Safety at the top of backto-school items in CBN
With students across Newfoundland and Labrador headed back to classes last week, there was plenty of talk about supplies, class lists and new classmates.
However, parent groups in Bay Roberts and Harbour Grace took the opportunity to show their displeasure with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District’s (NLESD) decision to enforce a 1.6 kilo- metre buffer zone around Coley’s Point Primary and St. Francis School.
The buffer zone prevents students who live within it from having a regular bus run and requires them to walk to school every day.
In Harbour Grace last Wednesday, some three-dozen parents, students and elected officials came together in the morning before school opened on the parking lot behind the school.
“Safety is a huge, huge thing,” St. Francis parent Shelly Williams told The Compass. “There’s no infrastructure. If they want to make this a provincewide change, rural areas can’t support what metro areas can support. We don’t have any crosswalks. We don’t even have a shoulder on the road.
“Parents are very concerned with children coming to school and being in unsafe conditions.”
Children who can use the bus will need to be out earlier to catch it. That’s fine for this time of year when there’s still a sliver of light early in the morning, but as fall stretches into winter, it’ll be dark when they first get on road either walking or waiting for the bus.
This year, St. Francis gets underway at 8:05 a.m., almost an hour ahead of last year.
That means students as young as five-years-old will be forced onto the streets as early as 7 a.m. while they wait for the bus
The buffer zone affects 120 of the school’s 300 students. It means they’ll be forced to traverse large parts of Route 60 through Harbour Grace. It’s a portion of the Conception Bay Highway and under provincial jurisdiction.
Later in the week, three-dozen parents and students in Bay Roberts made what can be a treacherous walk from Powell’s Supermarket to Coley’s Point Primary. Along the way, the group was passed by a couple of buses that were less than half full with students and dozens of vehicles as they squeezed themselves off the pavement and onto the gravel slope. In some cases, they were on people’s lawns.
For these parents, the morning was about mirroring the walk their children will take each morning to get to class.
Even the most hardened walker would bristle at the thought of walking the 1.6-kms to school. And, that’s before the mornings get darker and the snow starts.
“No one seems to realize what we’re talking about,” said parent Michelle Gallant. “We’re writing it down, we’re taking pictures but no one is believing it. I truly believe that if anyone that’s setting this policy saw what we had to walk through, they would make a change.
“There’s no one that would tell these kids that they have to go through this everyday.”
“Over the summer months, I’ve taken the concerns of residents and have several meetings with the school district,” said Harbour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons, who took part in both events. “I also brought them to the attention of the minister of education.
“There’s a concern for safety. I will continue to bring the concerns to the government and the school district. It’s something I won’t give up on.”
Parents and students at St. Francis school in Harbour Grace protested the changes to start times and the implementation of a 1.6 kilometre buffer zone Wednesday morning in Harbour Grace.