Friday, September 18, 2009

Busing headaches -- updated

This Welland Tribute article published earlier this week hit very, very close to home. I worked with a local family earlier this year on this exact concern, where the mother was saying the exact same things. Her choice was to enroll her children in a Catholic school, and then in the French immersion program. Her bus time was ridiculously over the board maximum-ride policy.
This fall, I received a few more e-mails from the family indicating the situation hadn't been resolved. Anyway-- in the Welland piece, the issue is minimum busing distances, where the family has actually switched schools (and boards) in order to qualify for busing.
The Catholic board and District School Board of Niagara have a shared bus system and harmonized transportation policies. The cutoff for busing for children in grades 1 to 8 is 1.6 kilometres.
(Tammy) Mott said she believes the distance is too far for her children to walk and she is unable to accompany or drive them to school because of her job.
"I'm a single working mom. I'd have to quit my job."
Her home, near the intersection of Princess and Goderich Sts., is close to the Peace Bridge and the QEW. The route the children would have to take to school sees a lot of traffic and would require her girls to cross some streets without a crossing guard along the way.

The newspaper followed up its coverage with an editorial 'brick' Friday, criticizing the board's decision not to allow an exemption to its 1.8-kilometre busing distance.
The distance itself struck me as odd-- some consortia and boards stagger distances based on age (so a five-year-old doesn't have to walk two kilometres) and have policies to take safety into account. I'm aware of several local schools here where busing is provided so elementary students aren't walking across busy roadways or railway tracks.
What are others hearing about busing in this school year? All boards had to reduce transportation spending by one per cent for this year, and consortia are also coming into place. Any other horror stories out there I haven't come across?
The paper updated this story Saturday with some video and information gathered before the mother here pulled her kids and switched them to the public school so they would qualify for busing.
Family and Children's Services of Niagara agrees with mom and supported her position the distance was too far for her daughters to walk.
"Given the proximity of the school and ages of your children, it is not a suitable plan to have the children walk unsupervized," a child protection worker at FACS wrote in response to Mott's email.
"As a parent, it is your obligation to make arrangements for your children's transportation to and from school. Please contact us to confirm the plans in which you make for your children's transportation."
 Mott spins that to mean her kids deserve busing, but I think all F&CS is saying is that it's too far to walk, period. Well, that's not what they're saying.