Parents still fretting over school busing system
Revisions haven’t worked well for all they say
While protests from parents throughout the central region caused the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) to re-evaluate the pickup of students within the 1.6 km family responsibility zone, the outcome has received mix reactions.
During the first day of school, Sept. 5, the district announced it would implement one courtesy pickup along routes within the zone on a trial basis. The additional stops were made available to approximately 25 schools.
One of those schools was Hillview Academy in Norris Arm.
Parent Karla Brown’s concern was not only with young children having to walk to school, but the fact that it also bypassed afterschool programming at the Boys and Girls Club.
Because Norris Arm has two routes, Brown said, two courtesy stops were available.
“They actually made one of the courtesy stops at the Boys and Girls club, which also covered families with children within
range of the club,” she told The Central Voice.
However, the Norris Arm parent remains worried.
“The only thing that scares me now, is that it’s at their (NLESD’s) discretion,” she said. “If they decide next week to take the courtesy stop out then we are right back to where we started.”
The new busing setups haven’t worked well for all families.
Parents in Centreville and Wareham, in the amalgamated community of CentrevilleWareham-Trinity, continue to protest the decision, even stopping school buses from entering Centreville Academy grounds Sept. 17-20.
Like Norris Arm, there are two busing routes within the family responsibility zone – Centreville and Wareham.
However, for parent Gregory Cutler, the location of the stops isn’t suitable for the needs of the students.
For instance, he said, children in his area have to choose between an 800-metre walk to school or walk over 600 metres to the courtesy pickup area.
“The school district claims it’s abiding by policy that inside 1.6 kms is the family responsibility zone, and they’re trying to seem generous by giving us a stop we’re not supposed to have,” he said. “But it’s no real benefit to us.
”He pointed out that when protests were held in Centreville at the beginning of the school year, students on the blockaded buses weren’t permitted to walk the 100 feet to Centreville Academy unaccompanied by a teacher. Yet, the school district deems it acceptable for students to walk much further distances by themselves, he said.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Cutler said in an interview. “The district is sticking to its policy, but we’re going to continue to fight.”
The Central Voice contacted the school district for comment.
In an email reply the NLESD said it was premature to comment on how the one-stop courtesy seating format has been working so far, as it’s early in the school year, not all stops have not yet been identified and there may still be students who will want to be included.
The district did say, however, the trial run has not resulted in a change in the busing policy. The courtesy stops were added to gauge whether the system could be manageable and to get a better understanding of the overall busing system.
The district added the province has not provided any extra funding to the board for this trial.
To maintain the courtesy stop trial, the district explained it must be done within current budget allocations, adding with more than 1,100 bus routes in the province, it would take some time for a review to be carried out to allow for informed decisions.
“We have continued to listen to the concerns of parents and to adjust operations where possible,” the board said in its statement to The Central Voice. “There are, however, no plans to add more than one stop, per route, within the 1.6 km (courtesy) zone.”