Off the bus: ‘No com­mon sense’

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON News Staff

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.

“Com­plex”

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.

STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON PHOTO

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.

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