Top News

Marystown mother challenges busing rule with protest walk

Starr Smith hopes to raise awareness of the concerns of parents over bussing by holding a walk on Monday, Sept 10. From the left in Maria Smith, Jackson Smith and Christpher Smith Walking to school.
Starr Smith hopes to raise awareness of the concerns of parents over bussing by holding a walk on Monday, Sept 10. From the left in the back are Starr Smith, Chris Smith and Maria Smith, with Christopher Smith and Jackson Smith in the front. - Contributed

Facebook page calls for change in 1.6-kilometre policy

MARYSTOWN, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
CANADA
Starr Smith, a mother of three in Marystown, is continuing her efforts to have a recent decision by the NLESD to enforce the 1.6-kilometre parent responsibility zone.
Under the regulation, any students living within 1.6 kilometres from a school will not be bused, and it is up to the parents to get the students to school.
Smith started a Facebook group so parents can come together and voice their concerns.
“A lot of parents were voicing their opinions on Facebook about their kids not having transportation,” she told the Southern Gazette. “Especially in the winter, our roads are not cleared well. We don’t have wide sidewalks (and) we don’t have sidewalks in most areas. It’s not going to be safe for children to walk.”
Smith is hoping to further draw attention to the issue by holding a walk on Monday, Sept 10.
“Our plan is for everybody to meet at the church parking lot, and we will slow down traffic if not stop it,”
She added that the parents, as well as children will walk from the parking lot of the Sacred Heart Parish in Marystown to Sacred Heart Academy. She also hopes to meet with school district officials that day.
According to Smith, even now when parents drop their kids off at the school in rainy weather, “they are soaked by the time they get in school, yet alone having to walk (up to) 1.6k m to get there.”
Smith’s home falls within the parent responsibility zone.
“I’ve known this since May and yes, I have contacted the school district (office) about it and basically I’ve been given different stories,” she explained. “First I was told my children were not affected—their bus stop would continue to stay behind the old (Marystown) Mall. Then a couple weeks later I got a call saying you are affected by this 1.6 km rule.”
According to information found in Newfoundland and Labrador English School District’s School Transportation Policies document, the distance to the school is defined as the shortest route by a publicly maintained roadway from the driveway of the student’s residence to the nearest accessible access to the zoned school property.
Smith said that the shortest distance from her to the school would have her children crossing an area of privately owned land, as well as a busy intersection, “They (NLESD) want me to leave my house, cross the shipyard parking lot, (through) the traffic lights,” she said. “Is that deemed safe in anybody’s eyes?”
Smith said with the increase in traffic at peak times during the day, as well as an increase in commercial traffic, having students walk is a safety concern.
“I can guarantee that if I sent my son that’s six years old to walk across that traffic, the RCMP would be at my doorstep.”
Smith told The Southern Gazette that she received a call informing her a courtesy stop would be added for her children under a new trial by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.
Under the one-year trial program, courtesy stops will be established once eligible courtesy riders have been identified through the Courtesy Seating Application/Approval process. That process could take till the end of September to complete.
Information found in a release from NLESD also states that the courtesy stops are only for areas where that practice was in place last year, and only for areas which received the May 2018 memo—they will be limited to one courtesy stop per bus route within the 1.6 km zone.
Smith said that it is not going far enough.
“One courtesy stop may not be suitable for everybody,” she said. “There’s certain areas of our town that will certainly need that courtesy stop, but one courtesy stop on most routes is not going to cut it with just eight buses.”
She added that with the reduction from 12 buses to eight servicing Sacred Heart Academy, seating on some will be limited.
Smith added that the decision to enforce a rule that in past years has not been upheld is putting a strain on many families.
“I know of families that have to change their work schedules — I had to take my lunch to go pick up my kids everyday,” she said. “It is really (playing) havoc on people, and with the economy the way it is they really should be considering low income (families) and the working poor at this point.”
Colin.farrell@southerngazette.ca

Recent Stories