NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
More children in Marystown will have a chance to ride the school bus this year, as a result of the efforts of local parents pushing for more courtesy stops in the town.
Six courtesy stops were added to the bus routes in the town on Wednesday, Sept. 19.
That decision by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) came a few days after a Sept. 13 meeting local parent Starr Smith and members of the town council.
The Sept. 13 meeting
Smith, a mother of three, is one of many parents in the area who were concerned about the board’s transportation policy that would mean students living up to 1.6 km would not be able to ride the bus to school.
Smith recently made headlines for organizing a protest walk, joined by other parents of students who attend Sacred Heart Academy in Marystown.
She told The Southern Gazette on Wednesday, Sept 19, the meeting with the NLESD was a positive one.
“Between us all we suggested to the school district (representative) where the courtesy stop should be, just based on our knowledge of the children in the area,” she said.
She was joined at the meeting by Deputy Mayor Gary Myles, Placentia West- Bellevue MHA Mark Browne, and Browne’s Constituency Assistant Tara Planke.
According to Smith, local parents had several recommendations for the board regarding the need for courtesy stops, but not all of their suggestions could be implemented.
“Unfortunately they’re not (responsive) to the fact that there may need to be more than one (courtesy) stop per bus route,” she said.
Smith said she has also spoken with the education minister Al Hawkins about the previous locations of safe school bus stops in the town.
Her children are now being picked up near the Town Hall by the community garden.
Smith said that’s “fine this time of year but once the winter hits and we can’t cross over the shipyard parking lot, then they’re just as well-off walking to school.”
Smith said another issue she addressed with Ian Sinclair, Director of Student Transportation and School Financial Support with the NLESD, was safety concerns with pick-ups and drop-offs at the school.
“It is a possibility that this week they may get some crosswalks put in back of the school just to make it a little bit safer,” Smith said.
Deputy Mayor Gary Myles noted in a recent council meeting the town supports Smith; the deputy mayor joined her at the Sept. 13 meeting with the NLESD.
According to Myles, the board indicated there was flexibility on the courtesy stop issue. While the 1.6 km will remain in place, there will be one stop on each route inside the 1.6 boundary.
The big discussion, he says, was where to put them.
“So, it’s not perfect it’s not as good as it was up until now,” Myles said in council chambers on Tuesday, Sept.18, “but I think it’s the best that could be achieved under the circumstances.”
He added school district officials also confirmed during the Sept. 13 meeting that no children will be required to walk across the Canning Bridge.
That bridge joins Marystown north to Marystown South.
Parents had concerns about children having to use that bridge because it has only one sidewalk, which is not always cleared of snow and ice in the winter.
Cheryl Gullage, manager of communications for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District explained in an e-mail to The Gazette that district staff met with representatives of the protest group on Monday, Sept. 18, to provide them with information regarding the safe courtesy stop locations.
“The locations are based on an assessment conducted by district staff and will service students who are approved for a courtesy seat.”
She added that, as discussed previously with the group, each of the six existing bus routes for Sacred Heart Academy will see a courtesy stop implemented in an area deemed safe by our student transportation staff.
“Those in attendance seemed pleased with the information and with the details shared,” Gullage wrote. “The six courtesy stops for the school were implemented on Wednesday, Sept. 19.”