Ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter re­sponds to Com­pass colum­nist’s work

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Dale Kirby, MHA for Mount Scio, is the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood Devel­op­ment

I am writ­ing in re­sponse to a re­cent col­umn, ‘Let’s en­sure the safety of our fu­ture,’ pub­lished by The Com­pass on Oct. 20 that fo­cused on school trans­porta­tion.

Pro­vid­ing a safe, re­li­able school trans­porta­tion sys­tem is, and al­ways will be, a pri­or­ity for our gov­ern­ment. That is why it is so im­por­tant that I pro­vide clar­i­fi­ca­tion for par­ents and your read­ers on the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood Devel­op­ment’s school trans­porta­tion poli­cies.

Dur­ing Bud­get 2016, no changes were made to any of the school trans­porta­tion poli­cies. In fact, the 1.6 kilo­me­tres pol­icy is not a new pol­icy as it can be traced back as far as the 1970’s and may even date back to the be­gin­ning of school bus­ing in the prov­ince. As it stands, the 1.6 kilo­me­tres cri­te­rion in New­found­land and Labrador is com­pa­ra­ble to the other prov­inces in Canada. Where space per­mits, there may be avail­abil­ity of a courtesy seat; this is ad­min­is­tered through the New­found­land and Labrador English School Dis­trict.

In ad­di­tion, the depart­ment also has an Al­ter­nate Trans­porta­tion Pol­icy which clearly out­lines that there are po­ten­tially al­ter­nate trans­porta­tion ser­vices “avail­able to stu­dents who for med­i­cal/ex­cep­tional rea­sons are un­able to use reg­u­lar school trans­porta­tion, or who re­side within 1.6 kilo­me­tres from the school and have a med­i­cal/ex­cep­tional rea­son pre­vent­ing them from walk­ing to school, and to Kinder­garten to Grade 6 stu­dents who re­side within 1.6 kilo­me­tres of school whose par­ent/guardian can­not ac­com­pany their child to school due to a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity.” I cer­tainly en­cour­age par­ents to check with school ad­min­is­tra­tors re­gard­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion process for al­ter­nate trans­porta­tion.

For those in­ter­ested in view­ing any of the depart­ment’s school trans­porta­tion poli­cies, they can visit the depart­ment’s web­site at http://www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/ k12/bus­ing/leg­is­la­tion.html.

It is also worth not­ing that any re­duc­tions in the num­ber of school buses are a re­sult of reg­u­lar re­views of ex­pir­ing bus­ing con­tracts by the school dis­tricts to as­sess the re­quire­ments of the lo­cal area. Some­times more school buses may be re­quired, some­times less. Many school bus con­tracts are for five years with a five-year re­newal op­tion.

The Gov­ern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador spends more than $62 mil­lion an­nu­ally to en­sure that stu­dents are safely trans­ported to and from school, with ap­prox­i­mately 70 per cent of the prov­ince’s chil­dren ac­com­mo­dated by stu­dent trans­porta­tion be­fore con­sid­er­ing courtesy seat­ing.

It is also worth not­ing that any re­duc­tions in the num­ber of school buses are a re­sult of reg­u­lar re­views of ex­pir­ing bus­ing con­tracts by the school dis­tricts to as­sess the re­quire­ments of the lo­cal area.

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