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Letter: Busing policy puts children at risk

School buses dropping children at school.
School buses dropping children at school.

 

As a concerned parent with school age children, and living within 1.6 kilometres of our school, I find myself writing once again about the busing policy.

This government policy states that any child who lives within 1.6 km of their school is not entitled to take a school bus. This policy is decades old and it’s time for a change.

Speeding, distracted and impaired drivers, narrow or nonexistent shoulders of the road in smaller towns, no crosswalks, no sidewalks, blind hills and turns are a daily reality for school age children. They face all these factors while walking to school before they ever have to face winter with slippery streets, large snowbanks, uncleared sidewalks and shoulders of the road replaced by snowbanks.

Dale Kirby, the minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, has the ability to change this policy. He was trying to do so in the House of Assembly as an opposition member on Nov. 18, 2013, when he said, “What we really need to do, before the winter sets in, is to get this issue dealt with.”

There is no evidence to show he is acting on this direct order from the premier. Instead, letters to his office from concerned parents about the safety of our children get ignored, or the replies are cut and pasted.

In a mandate letter from Premier Dwight Ball to Minister Kirby on Dec. 14, 2015, Kirby is told by Ball to be responsible for “reviewing the distance criteria for school bus service eligibility and implementing a more flexible policy.”

There is no evidence to show he is acting on this direct order from the premier. Instead, letters to his office from concerned parents about the safety of our children get ignored, or the replies are cut and pasted.

On Oct. 16, 2017, in the House of Assembly, several members of the opposition addressed the 1.6 kilometre policy. There have been petitions introduced on this issue. Kirby’s response is that parents can go to the district and request a courtesy seat and most issues are resolved within a few weeks of the start of the school year.

The fact remains that many families are denied a courtesy seat and, furthermore, those inside the 1.6 km are being denied a stop because district policy states “there should be no bus stop located inside the ineligible zone for the school.”

I am asking every parent in our province to email, fax and or call Minister Dale Kirby’s office and contact your local MHA and voice your concerns to have this 1.6 km policy eliminated.

 

Suzette Moss

Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s

 

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