NLESD adds cour­tesy stops for Marystown school chil­dren

Meet­ing with board was pos­i­tive, says par­ent Starr Smith

The Southern Gazette - - News - BY COLIN FAR­RELL colin.far­rell@south­erngazette.ca

More chil­dren in Marystown will have a chance to ride the school bus this year, as a re­sult of the ef­forts of lo­cal par­ents push­ing for more cour­tesy stops in the town.

Six cour­tesy stops were added to the bus routes in the town on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 19.

That de­ci­sion by the New­found­land and Labrador English School District (NLESD) came a few days af­ter a Sept. 13 meet­ing lo­cal par­ent Starr Smith and mem­bers of the town coun­cil.

The Sept. 13 meet­ing

Smith, a mother of three, is one of many par­ents in the area who were con­cerned about the board’s trans­porta­tion pol­icy that would mean stu­dents liv­ing up to 1.6 km would not be able to ride the bus to school.

Smith re­cently made head­lines for or­ga­niz­ing a protest walk, joined by other par­ents of stu­dents who at­tend Sa­cred Heart Academy in Marystown.

She told The South­ern Gazette on Wed­nes­day, Sept 19, the meet­ing with the NLESD was a pos­i­tive one.

“Be­tween us all we sug­gested to the school district (rep­re­sen­ta­tive) where the cour­tesy stop should be, just based on our knowl­edge of the chil­dren in the area,” she said.

She was joined at the meet­ing by Deputy Mayor Gary Myles, Pla­cen­tia West- Belle­vue MHA Mark Browne, and Browne’s Con­stituency As­sis­tant Tara Planke.

Ac­cord­ing to Smith, lo­cal par­ents had sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions for the board re­gard­ing the need for cour­tesy stops, but not all of their sug­ges­tions could be im­ple­mented.

“Un­for­tu­nately they’re not (re­spon­sive) to the fact that there may need to be more than one (cour­tesy) stop per bus route,” she said.

Smith said she has also spo­ken with the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Al Hawkins about the pre­vi­ous lo­ca­tions of safe school bus stops in the town.

Her chil­dren are now be­ing picked up near the Town Hall by the com­mu­nity gar­den.

Smith said that’s “fine this time of year but once the win­ter hits and we can’t cross over the ship­yard park­ing lot, then they’re just as well-off walk­ing to school.”

Smith said an­other is­sue she ad­dressed with Ian Sin­clair, Di­rec­tor of Stu­dent Trans­porta­tion and School Fi­nan­cial Sup­port with the NLESD, was safety con­cerns with pick-ups and drop-offs at the school.

“It is a pos­si­bil­ity that this week they may get some cross­walks put in back of the school just to make it a lit­tle bit safer,” Smith said.

Town sup­port

Deputy Mayor Gary Myles noted in a re­cent coun­cil meet­ing the town sup­ports Smith; the deputy mayor joined her at the Sept. 13 meet­ing with the NLESD.

Ac­cord­ing to Myles, the board in­di­cated there was flex­i­bil­ity on the cour­tesy stop is­sue. While the 1.6 km will re­main in place, there will be one stop on each route in­side the 1.6 boundary.

The big dis­cus­sion, he says, was where to put them.

“So, it’s not per­fect it’s not as good as it was up un­til now,” Myles said in coun­cil cham­bers on Tues­day, Sept.18, “but I think it’s the best that could be achieved un­der the cir­cum­stances.”

He added school district of­fi­cials also con­firmed dur­ing the Sept. 13 meet­ing that no chil­dren will be re­quired to walk across the Can­ning Bridge.

That bridge joins Marystown north to Marystown South.

Par­ents had con­cerns about chil­dren hav­ing to use that bridge be­cause it has only one side­walk, which is not al­ways cleared of snow and ice in the win­ter.

Cheryl Gul­lage, man­ager of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the New­found­land and Labrador English School District ex­plained in an e-mail to The Gazette that district staff met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the protest group on Mon­day, Sept. 18, to pro­vide them with in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the safe cour­tesy stop lo­ca­tions.

“The lo­ca­tions are based on an as­sess­ment con­ducted by district staff and will ser­vice stu­dents who are ap­proved for a cour­tesy seat.”

She added that, as dis­cussed pre­vi­ously with the group, each of the six ex­ist­ing bus routes for Sa­cred Heart Academy will see a cour­tesy stop im­ple­mented in an area deemed safe by our stu­dent trans­porta­tion staff.

“Those in at­ten­dance seemed pleased with the in­for­ma­tion and with the de­tails shared,” Gul­lage wrote. “The six cour­tesy stops for the school were im­ple­mented on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 19.”

COLIN FAR­RELL—THE SOUTH­ERN GAZETTE

Starr Smith has been very vo­cal about her con­cerns with the de­ci­sion of the NLESD to en­force a rule un­der their trans­porta­tion pol­icy that leaves kids liv­ing within 1.6km of the school not el­i­gi­ble for bus­ing.

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