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Parents petition for new school bus policy

By Sarah Law
The first day of school can often be nerve-wracking, but for one Prince Edward County resident, it is not her classes making her anxious, but rather how she will get to them.

Buses are a necessity for students in rural communities – but in some cases, boundary lines add extra barriers to those attending specialized programs.

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Beth and Ken Globe, who live just north of Wellington, are lobbying for these boundary lines to be changed, so their daughter can attend the French Immersion program at Bayside Secondary School.

Beth Globe says she was only told a week before the first day of school that her daughter would no longer be able to take the bus she had taken throughout elementary school to get to her new high school, as they previously thought she could.

Instead, Tri-Board Student Transportation Services, the company responsible for student transit in the district, told her a bus could pick up her daughter at Burr Road and Highway 62, which is about eight kilometres away from their home. However, Beth and her husband say they do not have the time to drop her off every morning.

“To place transportation boundaries such as the one my daughter is running into means the specialized programs are not available to all students within the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board,” Globe wrote in a letter addressing her concerns.

She reached out to the high school, local MPP Todd Smith’s office, her school board trustee Jennifer Cobb, and Nick Pfeiffer, the superintendent of business services and treasurer of the school board.

Bayside Secondary School

Globe says her daughter attended Harry J. Clarke Public School for French Immersion, and had to take two different high school buses to get there. She says there was a transfer point at Zwick’s Island in Belleville where her daughter would get on a second bus so that she could continue her French studies. Her daughter has taken this route for five years with no issues.

However, she says she was told there has never been a transfer point from Zwick’s to Bayside Secondary School, so it is her responsibility to arrange transportation for her daughter.

“This seems ridiculous because buses go by there every day,” says Globe.

The website for the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board outlines how exceptions cannot be made for students who live outside the boundary lines, regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in specialized programs.

It notes “transportation is not automatically provided to students who attend optional programs… and who live outside the boundary area for the host school. However, if surplus space is available on existing bus routes, students attending optional programs may be able to access transportation as courtesy riders.”

Globe says this is not an option for their family.

Representatives of the school board thanked her for bringing attention to the issue, but “attention doesn’t help her continue her French, which, as everybody knows in Canada, is a vital skill,” said Globe.

Kerry Donnell, communications officer for the school board, could not provide specific details about the case due to privacy legislation.

“We are working with the family and Tri-Board to see what options are available that might work for the family,” she wrote in an email.

Queen Elizabeth Public School in Picton offered French Immersion, but it was closed in June. The students from there are moving to Prince Edward Collegiate School, which for the first time will instruct students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

“The plan is for French Immersion to continue through the grades at PECI,” Donnell explained. “French Immersion starts in Grade 4 at the five elementary schools where it is offered. At present, Bayside Secondary School is the only secondary school offering it. That will change as the PECI students move through the grades,” Donnell explained in an email.

This means Globe’s daughter is faced with making her way to Bayside to continue French Immersion studies.

The real solution is for the school board to write a new policy about mandatory transportation, said Globe. She says the board has to state that “if we offer a program and the child is accepted, transportation must be provided. Period. Because without that, it eliminates hundreds of students from the opportunity to attend these specialized programs.”

“It affects my daughter, but it doesn’t just affect her,” she says.

On a community Facebook page for members of Prince Edward County, Globe and her husband posted about their daughter’s problem. However, the response they received was mixed.

One person commented that they had to drive their two children to and from Bayside Secondary School every day because they were out of bounds for the bus.

While some people sympathized with the lack of transportation options, others recommended they try carpooling, switching to the Catholic school board where there are schools that offer French Immersion, or taking the time to drive their daughter the eight kilometres to the bus stop.

Some people commented that since joining the specialized French Immersion program was their daughter’s choice, and that she is outside the boundary lines, it is her family’s responsibility to get her to and from school.

However, Globe says her daughter should not have to switch school boards in order to stay in her program. Her husband also mentioned that he carpools to work at 6 a.m., while Beth is typically already at work by 7 a.m., so they cannot drive her to the stop.

Globe’s daughter is still set to attend Bayside Secondary School. The family’s temporary solution is to have her older brother drive her to the bus stop, but since he works and is also in school, he will not always be available.

“The school board has a transportation policy in place that is non-equitable and non-inclusive to many students under their jurisdiction,” says Globe. “This needs to change. I’m just afraid the change will be too late for my daughter.”

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  1. james says:

    JM has hit the problem right on point: serving students is last on the priorities of board personnel well after they justify flying a desk to collect from the swine trough. Who cares if a student has to risk traffic for an 8-kilometre roadside walk in all grades of weather, or maybe accept a ride from an accommodating pervert? What child really is worth enough to protect from these dangers?

    If French Immersion is a legitimate programme, especially in bi-lingual Canada, and not a ‘special request’ as suggested, then every student should have access to it with none excluded because it is inconvenient for busing.

    Of coarse (sic) [meaning ‘to be rough or crude’] if posters themselves on this site are products of this board of education and are commenting on the bussing (sic) [meaning ‘to kiss’] then it really doesn’t matter how literate their children become in either official language of the country – “bien sur”.

  2. JM says:

    Beth and Ken Globe, I support you. We live in the same area as you, and our daughter attends the IB Foundations program at Eastside. Bussing was not provided to our driveway, so we have to make arrangements to meet the bus a few kms away. We both work, so it is extremely difficult to say the least to make this work. We also had the discussions with their senior members with no success.

    The board has a $200 million dollar operating budget, and continues to make cuts to transportation and schools, on the backs of students and their families. While the number of schools decline, and some schools operate well below capacity, the level of staffing at the Education Center continues to climb. What is best for kids does not appear to be the priority of their central staff.

  3. Rob says:

    Not a board employee but have some knowledge of bus things. Likely the bus at Burr Road goes to Centennial (879) and then a transfer bus from there (876 IIRC) would collect transfers from a bunch of buses coming to Centennial and race them to Bayside. The transfer point at Zwick’s is there at least in part to hand off kids to buses that head to some specific schools in Belleville and allow the others to head back empty over the bridge and get started on milk runs to places like Kente in a reasonable time. Scheduling and routing is much more complex than most imagine and adding into the picture transfers makes it approach public transit except if you miss the transfer there isn’t another one coming along until tomorrow.

    Yes, you can live in South Bay or at Cressy and go to a Catholic High School in Belleville, just as you can live in Sulphide, Marlbank, Deloro, Cordova Mines or Anderson Island and do the same. But you better be prepared for an extremely long bus ride, or an extremely long bus and car ride combined. I don’t think the situation described in this story is unique and people have been dealing with it for years. If there’s one kid living at Point Traverse that goes to Nicholson in Belleville, or French immersion at Bayside the system has to spend 30 extra minutes twice a day getting a bus down there to get him when mom and dad can get him part way to Belleville along an established bus route?

    That same intersection at Burr Road and 62 is the one you’re driving your kid to everyday if they attend Quinte Christian School from a heck of a lot farther than 8 km away, like at Green Point. That’s a private school covering a huge geographic area and those people made that choice when they went that route. And they pay a fortune on top of it and are still willing to live with very limited bus transportation for that sort of education.

  4. Tj says:

    Is there not French immersion at PECI my daughter just started yesterday in that coarse

  5. Mike says:

    Try uber
    Board cannot and should not accommodate every special request like this . Each child would need their own bus
    Who pays?

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