Plans to cut a school bus route to Raven and North Broadview have some parents worried about the safety of their children and they are petitioning the school district to reinstate the route.
The school district confirmed there are plans to eliminate the school bus route that services Lakeshore, Raven and a portion of North Broadview for high school students for the upcoming year.
This has a number of parents upset because the teens will now have to walk home along Lakeshore Road, which has no sidewalks and narrow corners.
“To me more than the distance, this is a safety issue,” says Daphne Brown, who along with her husband Cam has started the petition drive that now has approximately 90 signatures. The couple has two daughters that use the bus to get to school and a third in Middle School.
“There are no sidewalks; the road is a very busy one. It is winding and treacherous in winter. And with snowbanks, there is no place for anyone to walk safely.”
But the school district says this year, there is only one student who lives on this route and is outside the school district’s walking limits. This student can be accommodated on a different bus route.
For students in Grade 4-12, the school district’s acceptable walking limit is 4.8 kilometres. Each school district can set its own walk limits. The Vernon school district’s walk limit is 2.4 kilometres.
The Brown’s children, who live in Raven, are 4.7 kilometres from Salmon Arm Secondary.
At an average walking pace, it would take just under an hour to walk that distance.
Many of the students currently using the bus don’t actually qualify for a bus ride to the school because they live within the walking distance, however, they have been allowed to use the bus in previous years as there has been sufficient capacity.
School superintendent Glenn Borthistle says ridership has been low, noting a review showed approximately 10 students per day riding the bus. He says routes are reviewed annually with consideration given to the number of eligible students and the total ridership of the route.
“There are a number of areas not serviced by the bus and we have to try and be fair and service all areas of the district in the most economical way possible.”
But Brown says the school district should be considering more than just the number of kilometres.
“There is no public transportation out this way, there is no other alternative but for kids to walk or parents to drive them, and for working parents, this becomes a real problem because of the later start time for the high school,” she said.
In part to save money on bussing costs, the high school starts class at 9:15 a.m. Elementary and Middle school students begin class closer to 8:15 a.m.
Brown is also concerned about information getting out to parents, as she only found out because her daughter heard from the bus driver near the end of the school year.
“We think this is really important because we believe once the route is cut it will be difficult to ever get it back and there are plenty of parents with kids coming up through the system who live out this way. And yet we’ve heard nothing from the school district. I think that is very poor.”
The school district intends to send information out to affected parents as part of their annual bus route mailout which takes place in the couple of weeks before school.
Borthistle says that parents who have concerns could make a presentation to the school district’s transportation committee, although he acknowledges the committee usually doesn’t meet until the school year has already started. But he notes if there was a pressing issue, and enough parents were interested, the committee could assemble at any time.
Meanwhile, Brown is hoping more people will sign the Change.org petition online and will also send letters or call the school district with their concerns.
“Part of why I moved to this neighbourhood was the school bus, so my kids could be safe,” says Brown.
“I don’t want a kid to get hit by a car before the school district gets the message.”