Bus­ing pol­icy puts chil­dren at risk

The Pilot - - Editorial - Suzette Moss Por­tu­gal Cove-St.Philip’s

As a con­cerned par­ent with school age chil­dren, and liv­ing within 1.6 kilo­me­tres of our school, I find my­self writ­ing once again about the bus­ing pol­icy.

This govern­ment pol­icy states that any child who lives within 1.6 km of their school is not en­ti­tled to take a school bus. This pol­icy is decades old and it’s time for a change.

Speed­ing, dis­tracted and im­paired driv­ers, nar­row or nonex­is­tent shoul­ders of the road in smaller towns, no cross­walks, no side­walks, blind hills and turns are a daily re­al­ity for school age chil­dren. They face all these fac­tors while walk­ing to school be­fore they ever have to face win­ter with slip­pery streets, large snow­banks, un­cleared side­walks and shoul­ders of the road re­placed by snow­banks.

Dale Kirby, the min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment, has the abil­ity to change this pol­icy. He was try­ing to do so in the House of As­sem­bly as an op­po­si­tion mem­ber on Nov. 18, 2013, when he said, “What we re­ally need to do, be­fore the win­ter sets in, is to get this is­sue dealt with.”

In a man­date let­ter from Pre­mier Dwight Ball to Min­is­ter Kirby on Dec. 14, 2015, Kirby is told by Ball to be re­spon­si­ble for “re­view­ing the dis­tance cri­te­ria for school bus ser­vice eli­gi­bil­ity and im­ple­ment­ing a more flex­i­ble pol­icy.”

There is no ev­i­dence to show he is act­ing on this di­rect order from the pre­mier. In­stead, let­ters to his of­fice from con­cerned par­ents about the safety of our chil­dren get ig­nored, or the replies are cut and pasted.

On Oct. 16, 2017, in the House of As­sem­bly, sev­eral mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion ad­dressed the 1.6-kilo­me­tre pol­icy. There have been pe­ti­tions in­tro­duced on this is­sue. Kirby’s re­sponse is that par­ents can go to the dis­trict and re­quest a cour­tesy seat and most is­sues are re­solved within a few weeks of the start of the school year. The fact re­mains that many fam­i­lies are de­nied a cour­tesy seat and, fur­ther­more,

those in­side the 1.6 km are be­ing de­nied a stop be­cause dis­trict pol­icy states “there should be no bus stop lo­cated in­side the in­el­i­gi­ble zone for the school.”

I am ask­ing ev­ery par­ent in our prov­ince to email, fax and or call Min­is­ter Dale Kirby’s of­fice and contact your lo­cal MHA and voice your con­cerns to have this 1.6-km pol­icy elim­i­nated.

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