Off the bus: ‘No common sense’
All Warren and Trudy MacIntosh want to do is keep their daughter, Cassie, attending Grade 7 at Glengarry District High School in Alexandria.
Unfortunately, they can’t get transportation for their daughter, which means they have to drive her themselves. That’s proven problematic and inconvenient for the family, which lives just west of the intersection of County Roads 43 and 20. They are a farm family and the twice-a-day 40-minute round trips to and from school are taking a toll on their time and their wallets.
According to Mrs. MacIntosh, the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) insists that their daughter is zoned for Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore. However, she wants Cassie to attend classes at GD because her friends go there and because that school offers programs that are not available at Tagwi.
She also appreciates the Scottish culture that is so prominently displayed at GD; she wants Cassie – who dances and fiddles and plays soccer in Glengarry – to be able to attend events like St. Andrew’s Day.
Mrs. MacIntosh says that the zoning change was sudden.
“We used to be zoned for GD but now [the board] says it changed the boundary to Apple Hill Road. Then, over the summer, they changed it to Loch Garry.”
The MacIntoshes say it’s proven particularly frustrating because there are some kids who live just north of them on County Road 20 who are being bused into GD.
Local UCDSB Trustee Wendy MacPherson fears that Cassie might not be transported to her school of choice because in June, Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) – the consortium that oversees student transportation – began a stricter enforcement of school boundaries
“I was told that if there were students who were being bussed before [this year’s] policy enforcement then those students would continue to be bussed to graduate at GD,” she told The News. “But no new students would be bussed out of boundary, which is what Cassie is being considered.”
Mrs. MacPherson says she’s not happy with the new boundaries and wants to restore them so that Cassie will be able to attend Glengarry District High School.
UCDSB Trustee John McAllister, who also serves as chairman of STEO, agrees that the other students being driven to GDHS were likely grandfathered in under the old policy. Since Cassie is a Grade 7 student who did not attend GD last year, she wouldn’t qualify under the grandfathering allowance.
But that doesn’t mollify the MacIntoshes, who don’t see why their daughter can’t simply board the GDHS-bound school bus as it rounds the corner in front of their house.
“We think we have a common sense solution,” says Mr. MacIntosh. “If the bus goes by at the corner, Cassie should be allowed to get on there.”
But he says that so far, she hasn’t been allowed to board.
According to Mr. MacIntosh, he’s been told that his daughter can’t board the bus because “it’s full.” However, he says that STEO says that a bus is full if there are at least 1.5 students occupying each seat.
“There’s no common sense to that mental-
ity,” Mr. MacIntosh says. “It’s not full if there’s 17 seats available.”
Even worse is they don’t know who has the authority to change the situation.
“STEO says they are following the rules of the superintendents,” says Mrs. MacIntosh. “The superintendents say they are following rules set by trustees and STEO.”
The News emailed Mr. McAllister several questions about this specific situation. We asked how many students ride the bus in question, about the size of the bus STEO authorized for that particular route, and about the actual size of the bus that the driver uses.
His reply: “I am quite prepared to discuss the general issue of transportation and STEO at any time. It is complex! However, I am not in a position to comment on operational issues or individual cases. As a journalist, you will appreciate the matter of confidentiality.” He assured that the matter is under review.
The News also contacted STEO’s Operations Manager, Marc Gosset, who refused to comment on the matter, saying that it was “under review.”
The MacIntoshes have also reached out to Stephen Sliwa, Director of Education for the UCDSB. The News contacted his office numerous times and we have not received a call back as of press deadline.
DAILY FRUSTRATION: Trudy and Warren MacIntosh with their daughter, Cassie, outside their home at the intersection of County Roads 43 and 20. The MacIntoshes are frustrated that they have to drive their daughter to school every day.