Bus limits drive concerns

The recent changes to busing in the Vernon School District has resulted in a flurry of letters

The recent changes to busing in the Vernon School District has resulted in a flurry of letters, calls and e-mails from concerned parents.

Trustees recently called a special meeting to review the current status of the restructuring of the student transportation system that now enforces a 2.4 km walk limit.

“As to be expected when incorporating a major change in a system, the transportation department has had to deal with a number of concerns expressed by parents relating to pick-up and drop- off locations and potential safety concerns,” said school board chairman Bill Turanski. “The manager of transportation is attempting to deal with these concerns and changes have been made, where necessary, to pick-up and drop-off locations and particular attention has been given to dealing with potential safety concerns.

“In some cases students are being picked up within the walk limit zones where safety concerns merit it. In addition the transportation department has added numerous new bus stops and an additional bus run to address some of these concerns.”

In a letter to trustees and district superintendent Joe Rogers, Mariel Belanger and Melanie Marchand expressed their concern on behalf of Westside Road parents about getting their children to and from the bus stop safely.

“As members of the Okanagan Indian Band we hold School District 22 accountable and responsible for putting our children at high risk,” they said. “Some of our children have to walk up to three km from the designated bus stop to get home from school.”

Belanger and Marchand said BCAA calls Westside one of the province’s worst roads, and said not enough thought was put into road safety, nor were parents given a chance to voice their concerns.

Pointing out the lack of lighting, sidewalks and walking space on the side of the road, they said children are putting their lives at risk to save the district money.

“Not only are children at risk but drivers are also now at risk as they have to watch for black ice, cattle, wildlife and now children walking on dark roads and blind corners. Most parents work before and after school hours, some of us have no alternative solutions to getting our children to and home from public school.

“As parents, family members, community members, we challenge you to walk along Westside road on a cold, dark winter day and tell us if you feel safe. We are unwilling to sacrifice our children to unsound policies. We expect the district will return our bus stops to provide a safe passageway for our children to receive an education. We trust that this issue will be resolved immediately before B.C.’s Worst Road becomes School District 22’s Trail of Tears.”

Turanski said the enforcement of the 2.4 km walk limit, initiated due to lack of student transportation funding, needs to be addressed.

“Changes for the 2014-2015 school year are interim measures,” he said. “The board will form a committee made up of district staff, trustees and parents to explore all options including the pay-for-service option.”