School-busing rule is miles short of logical

Brian Jones
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Perhaps someday, in a more enlightened era, we will look back with revulsion and shame at the horror we inflicted on our children by packing them onto school buses.

In the meantime, the provincial government is looking for submissions “to review and evaluate provincial school transportation policies and guidelines.”

Mind you, this doesn’t mean Education Minister Clyde Jackman cares a whit about your opinion. Rather, the department is seeking input from “an independent consultant.”

Consultants apparently have more input than parents into the education system. Cynics might suggest “education consultants” are merely teachers who no longer teach, but let’s ignore them for the moment and deal with Jackman’s desire for a transportation review, albeit not necessarily from us.

The consultant will be asked to consider, among other things, “school busing eligibility zones.”

That is a topic — like religion or politics — guaranteed to spark an argument, especially in rural areas where reliance on busing is prevalent.

By the book

The current rule seems to be that anyone who lives less than 1.6 kilometres away from a school is not eligible to ride a school bus. (There is no mention of this distance — or any distance — in the Eastern School District’s student transportation policy, although it does refer to “eligible students.”)

Occasionally, some parent or other will make the news, complaining that their child can’t ride the bus because they live less than 1.6 kilometres from the school and are thus ineligible for district-

supplied transportation.

Such stories must prompt other, sympathetic parents to wonder whether the school-busing policy was penned by Franz Kafka. Surely, Kafkaesque describes the 1.6-kilometres rule.

Consider its rationale. The board — or department, if that is where it originates — is saying that a child who lives less than 1.6 kilometres from a school is capable of getting to school on his or her own, either on foot, bike, skateboard, Ski-Doo, horse, etc.

(Arguments based on the safety, or lack thereof, along a 1.59-kilometre stretch of roadway sometimes arise, but let’s set aside that issue for the moment.)

To see how illogical the rule is, let’s turn it inside out, flip it and look at it from the other side of the 1.6-kilometre demarcation point.

So, instead of merely telling students who live less than 1.6 kilometres from school that they’re on their own, the board/department would tell all students — whether they live 1.7, two or four kilometres away — that, since children are capable of reaching school on their own from a distance of 1.59 kilometres, buses will henceforth drop all students off 1.59 kilometres away from the school.

Preposterous? Ridiculous? No more so than the current policy. Such a change would at least be logically consistent and defensible, which the current policy is not.

Arguments about the distance policy almost always get sidetracked to whether the limit should be lowered, or whether 1.6 kilometres is too high a benchmark, especially for primary and elementary children.

But the actual distance is irrelevant.

As soon as a distance is set —

1.6 kilometres, one kilometre, half a kilometre — the rule becomes illogical.

By setting a distance, you’re saying that any child who lives within that limit is capable of getting to school on his or her own.

To be logically consistent, you must conclude that every other student is also capable of getting to school on his or her own from that distance. Therefore, as odd as it sounds and would in fact be, it is entirely logical that the rule should entail dropping all students off at the 1.6-kilometre limit, or whatever the limit is set at.

Bus-riding eligibility usually raises objections based on safety or fairness. Add logic to the list.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: Ski-Doo, The Telegram

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Recent comments

    February 28, 2013 - 21:34

    The public tender act is used to procure this service . The Department of Education accepts every single lowest bid , every time . You get what you pay for actually , not the best service , the cheapest service period . And yes , I am a bus contractor , one who has been screaming to get away from the dept of education and get a negotiated contract , handled by the PUB . It is an essential service , hauling children . Not a load of lumber . Wake up people and help contractors get away from a department looking to protect their budget

  • Parent at St. Edwards
    November 23, 2012 - 08:37

    The problem with bus regulations goes even further than the 1.6km rule. Parents are also expected to provide transportation to and from school if the child is in care. If a child gets on and off the bus at a caregivers home/facility then availing of a bus is considered a "courtesy seat". Parents have to wait a month during the beginning of the year to find out whether their children will have the privilege of riding on a bus. Those arrangements are but in place for the school year, and then you are expected to reapply the following year. The reality is that the majority of parents are working these days so most children are in care. It all comes down to planning, or lack thereof. CBS continues to grow, yet the powers at be cannot seem to keep up with the changes. There are not enough buses, the school is overcrowded and our children are suffering for it. Imagine this day in age an elementary school without a library or music room. Absurd!!!