Board seeking input on busing revisions

Peggy Revell

The Rainy River District School board is now looking for stakeholder input to draft changes to its transportation policy.
“The goal is to try and provide a transportation policy that would provide safe arrival and transportation to students, and one that tries to fit as many individual needs of parents as possible, and a policy that has to be interpreted and used by many different schools, small and large, throughout the district,” board chair Michael Lewis said during Tuesday night’s meeting at Donald Young School in Emo.
The revisions come after members of the public made presentations to the board back in December, outlining concerns and problems they have encountered when it comes to the busing of their children to school—especially over custody and child care arrangements.
The board also received a petition of more than 400 names asking for it to revisit the busing policy.
Since then, the board has gathered input from parents, parent councils, principals, bus operators, transportation partners, individual trustees, and the ministry, and had the policies looked at by both the policy and transportation committees.
The main of changes to the transportation policy falls into three sections: regular and fixed patterns, alternative addresses, and courtesy transportation.
Regular, fixed patterns
Instead of defining what a regular and fixed pattern is, the proposed policy states that when it comes to a child’s schedule, “Parents are encouraged to work with the board to try and adjust schedules to establish a regular and manageable weekly schedule for busing.
“Schedules are to be submitted to the transportation department well in advance of the start of the school year.
“The transportation department will work with parents and principals well in advance to try and establish a regular manageable schedule to accommodate custodial arrangements while maintaining student safety.”
Alternative address
Under the proposed new policy, alternative address must be on the student’s present route, must not result in a route extension or an additional stop, or if another bus is required for an alternative address, this may be provided if there is room on the other bus.
The policy also states the board will deal with all requests as “expeditiously as possible.”
While requests will be accepted with a minimum of three days’ notice, the policy also requests that parents/guardians give two weeks’ notice for any alternative address arrangements.
In case of emergency, the two weeks’ notice is not required (the proposed policy further defines “emergency” as implying death or severe illness with the student’s immediate family).
The new policy also outlines various situations which are not considered emergencies.
Courtesy transportation
Proposed changes to this section have secondary students being allowed to receive courtesy busing for employment or academic programming if the request is on an existing route, results in no additional stops or route extensions, and is accompanied with written information of employment and permission of parent/guardian.
As well, secondary students may use busing for medical appointments with two weeks’ notice, once again if there is no route extension or additional stop.
Other changes
The policy also saw the addition of a subsection which states that, notwithstanding the above cases, “the board is not obligated to provide transportation and may refuse to do so in specific cases where the distance is deemed excessive, the cost prohibitive, or where the pick-up/drop-off point is dangerous to the safety of those concerned.”
Feedback on the possible changes need to be received by the board by March 25.
Once stakeholder feedback is received, Lewis noted that “hopefully” this means the board will be able to approve the changes at its monthly meeting in April.
Lewis stressed it’s not possible to meet every single demand when it comes to transportation.
“However, trustees and the transportation department have been working very closely together to try and accommodate as many individual demands as we can,” he remarked.