Dear Editor: I am writing regarding what I consider to be a serious situation involving the transportation of students from the area known as Farm Road in Gillams to their school in Meadows.
The present policy only allows for students to be picked up at the former Templeton Collegiate parking lot. The bus does not go all the way in Farm Road.
About 22 students have to walk to catch the school bus in all kinds of inclement weather. These students range in age from five years old to students in senior high.
The parents/caregivers who have to drive their children to the bus stop due to the vast distance are stuck in an uncompromising situation that leaves two choices:
— Do I let my child walk to the bus stop unsupervised to put them at multiple risks? (Which I feel is not an option.)
— Do I quit my job and try to survive by budgeting on one income? (This is something no one should have to do because of a five-minute bus ride)
There are likely several excuses that will be made by the school board as to why this has been allowed to continue for years — such as the road is not plowed well in the winter. To this I ask, why isn’t the road plowed to a suitable standard?
The contractors who receive the money under their tendered contract have a responsibility to fulfill their contract or lose it. Is this not so? Or does our government not abide by the tendering act?
Another excuse could be that the bus does not have enough room to turn around.
According to the School Act, school boards have the responsibility to determine the bus routes based on the number of children using the service, and if it is a low number or the terrain/road conditions are an issue then the school board not only has the right, but it has the responsibility to provide buses which suit the need of the students involved.
I quote here from the 2004 Auditor’s report under the heading Route Planning: “In order to identify the appropriate number and types of vehicles required for student transportation, it is necessary for the boards to know the number and ages of students which require busing. Based upon this information, route planning can then occur. Route planning involves taking the information available on students requiring transportation and then creating and scheduling bus routes and stops for each school year to accommodate these students. Part of a successful route-planning process would involve a regular and consistent monitoring and evaluation process. It is important to know the numbers of students travelling on buses to avoid overcrowding on one hand as well as ensuring that the system remains efficient.”
Reading from the above, it is evident to me that the auditor general felt school boards and the government have a responsibility to ensure the safe transportation of our youth to their school and the safe return to their homes.
We certainly pay enough taxes for road upkeep and for proper transportation of our children. If the roads are a problem, fix the roads. If full-sized buses don’t have the room to turn around, you purchase a smaller bus to suit the need. This is just common sense.
With a copy of this letter, I am advising MHA Eddie Joyce of the situation and I implore for him to intercede on behalf of his constituents and his future voters.
During the school year we have no peace of mind over the safety of our children or sacrificing our livelihood to have peace of mind.
Maria Walsh, Gillams