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The Town of Gillams and residents of Farm Road have been working to make the road safer so that the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District will start servicing the area with a school bus.
CORNER BROOK After several years of fighting, Tammy Park thought for sure this would be the year that a school bus would start picking up and dropping off students who live on Farm Road in Gillams.
But Park, the parent of two children on that road, is now getting frustrated with “roadblock after roadblock” that keep getting put in front of that bus. She said the feeling of frustration is so high that she and other parents on the road are prepared to take the fight further with protests.
“We can’t give up. It’s too close,” she said by phone from her home on Monday.
There are about 25 students living on Farm Road. Unless their parents drive them out to the main road, or pick them up there, they have to walk about three kilometres a day to and from the bus stop. In this day and age, Park said that’s not acceptable.
“Why should the kids have to walk it?”
Park said in the past the former Western School District wouldn’t put a bus on Farm Road due to safety concerns, but in January parents and the town were told that if improvements were made to the road that the board would put a bus there.
Park said all involved figured that they would get at the work in the spring to get everything done so that once September came everything would be ready to go.
Instead, she said it felt like they were being “dodged.”
Finally, in August they heard from Lenny Hann, a busing manager with the now Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, on what was required.
The work started in early September and and Park said for three nights parents cut brush from along the side of the road with chainsaws. Then a contractor hired by the town did some blasting and other work to help eliminate blind turns in the road, put in a turnaround and put up guardrails.
Once the work was complete, Park thought they were guaranteed a school bus. In fact, she said the bus has already been acquired by the board and is sitting idle on a parking lot.
But last week, she said, Hann sent a letter informing parents and the town that the turnaround still needed more work. Park said the board is now asking that some grass or sods be taken off the turn.
“That wasn’t in the previous letters whatsoever,” she said.
In Park’s opinion, Hann is trying everything he can to stop the area from getting a bus.
“He’s finding everything that there is to find. “I’m just so sick of this,” she said. “To me it’s foolishness. We were guaranteed the bus.”
She said the town is in the process of getting the required work done and she’s waiting to see what happens next.
“I’m just giving him this last opportunity to make it right. Because if not, we’ve had enough.”
Meanwhile, Eddie Blanchard said he supports any action parents may take.
“I don’t care what I’ve got to do as long as it gets done for the kids. The kids are the number one thing out of all this stuff,” said Blanchard, who served as deputy mayor on the previous town council and was re-elected last week.
Blanchard said getting a bus for the road is something the entire council supports, and while he didn’t have an exact cost on the work, he said “it’s going to be a fair chunk of change.”
Like Park, he thinks the delay in getting the bus is just the board is giving them the runaround
“That’s the Western School Board,” he said, “they’re forcing our hand.”
No one from the school district was available to speak on the issue on Monday but, in an emailed statement from a spokesperson, the board said it is still working with the town, “to ensure the road is appropriate and safe for travel of (a) school bus.”
Earlier in September, a spokesperson confirmed through email that safety concerns are the reason a bus has not been assigned to the area.
“This information has been provided to the Town of Gillams and we are certainly open to discussion once these matters are addressed and the safety of students travelling on this road is no longer a concern.”