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Petition calls for end to N.L.’s 1.6-km busing rule

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NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR — The death of a 17-year-old student killed while walking to school in Cow Head on Sept. 11 has prompted a Conception Bay South mother to call on government to provide busing for all schoolchildren – no matter how near or far they live from their school.

Nancy Burton said she has no idea if the student (17-year-old Justin Hynes, a Level III student at Long Range Academy) had access to a school bus.

“Just the fact that a student was killed spurred me on to do something,” she said when contacted by phone.

Burton’s change.org petition calls for “Access to safe transportation for every student K-12.” The petition garnered over 3,000 signatures in less than a week.

“(Students) are attending schools that are not designed for the heavy flow of vehicle traffic for parent drop offs. Children are told to walk up to 1.6 kilometres in communities with no sidewalks or even shoulders of the road to walk on. This causes safety issues, impedes staff from getting to the school, delays in employees getting to work and overall disruption for whole communities,” the petition reads.

People from various areas of the province are signing the petition which, Burton said, will eventually be delivered to the provincial government.

Their reasons for supporting Burton’s initiative are varied and speak to concerns in their particular areas.

Theresa Edwards is currently living in Embree while waiting for her new home to be built on a street just outside Lewisporte. The area is within Lewisporte town limits, Edwards said.

“My children (will) take the bus, but their bus stop is on a highway with an 80 km/h speed limit, no sidewalks and blind hills in both directions,” Edwards wrote when signing the petition.

When contacted about her concerns, Edwards said it wouldn’t be an inconvenience for the bus to stop on her new street once she’s moved to Lewisporte.

“You can go in one side of our street and come out the other. It wouldn’t be out of the bus’s way to come pick them up,” she said.

As she prepares for the move into her new home, Edwards can’t help thinking about the bussing situation her children will face.

“I’m worried about when I will get that call, that my kid has been hit by a car,” she said.

Edwards said she will continue to speak out to have a stop on her street, not only for her children but also for other young families who will settle in the area.

When signing the petition, Carol-Anne Barnes of Trout River noted her son and grandchildren aren’t allowed on the bus, no matter the weather.

“Rain, sleet, wind... don't matter... if they can't get a ride they have to walk and then sit in class wet... there’s no sidewalks here or crossing guards,” Barnes wrote.

Kathy LeDrew of Salmon Cove asked that the 1.6-kilometre rule be changed.

“If I wasn't able to bring my son to school, he would have to walk the Salmon Cove main highway with transport trucks, some that go at least 120 km/h. There's barely a sidewalk and in the winter time there is nothing but ice and (students) are forced out onto the road to walk to school. Kids as young as four years old,” she wrote.

Government priority

Information provided by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s (EECD) noted that providing a safe, reliable school transportation system is, and always has been, a government priority.

The department’s school bus transportation policy outlines the conditions under which funding is provided to boards for bus transportation services to students attending primary, elementary and secondary schools, the statement read.

Under the policy, funding is not provided to school boards to cover the transportation of students who live within 1.6 kilometres of their zoned neighbourhood school. 

According to the department, the 1.6-kilometre criterion in Newfoundland and Labrador is comparable to the other provinces in Canada.

Where space permits, the department said, there may be courtesy seats available – which is administered through the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD). 

A copy of government’s school bus transportation policy can be found on the department’s website at: http://www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/k12/busing/transportation_policies.pdf.  

To sign Burton’s petition visit www.change.org and search Nancy Burton.

danette@nl.rogers.com

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