Par­ents still fret­ting over school bus­ing sys­tem

Re­vi­sions haven’t worked well for all they say

The Central Voice - - Front Page - ADAM RAN­DELL

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.”

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