Bus skips over French immersion students from Southlands

A school board policy on busing has meant a loss of transportation for some French immersion students in the Southlands subdivision.

Board states if a school is not in a busing zone, then students must find their own way to and from class

New grade seven students Madison Button and Hayley Andrews want the school board to allow them to take the bus they need to get to their French immersion school. (CBC)

A policy by Newfoundland and Labrador's English School District states that if there is no French immersion school in a zone where a student lives —and that student wanted to study French immersion— he or she would have to find their own way to a school where immersion programs are being offered.

That is the situation that some students from the Southlands area of St. John's are finding themselves in.

French immersion students Hayley Andrews and Madison Button are zoned to attend St. Peter's Junior High in Mount Pearl. but because their families have opted for French immersion, they must attend Mount Pearl Intermediate about two kilometres away.

School board, government 'don't care about us'

Because of the school board's policy, they have to find their own way to and from Mount Pearl Intermediate every day.

A school board policy states that if a school in not in a student's busing zone, he or she must find their own transportation to and from class. (CBC)

"I feel like the school board and government don't care about us and our safety because we are in French immersion," said Andrews.

"The bus drives right by their homes in Southlands but they're not allowed on board," Button said about many of her classmates.

Andrews has been enrolled in French immersion since kindergarten, but being new to Grade 7 that means she must attend a new school.

Her mom, Cindy Andrews, said the solution around the busing issue is simple.

"[Hayley] could get on that bus and they could drop the students off to the respective schools and just make one extra stop," said the concerned mother.

"The bus would carry on [from St. Peter's] and drop the French immersion students off to Mount Pearl Intermediate," she said.

Extra bus stops, extra costs

But school board's Tony Stack said that is not an option.

Parents drop their children off for a day of classes at St. Peter's. (CBC)
"It might require route extensions and that would entail costs," Stack, the board's assistant director of education, told CBC News. 

"We have to deliver the entire English-French programming," he said. "French is the optional programming and we have to balance our resources."

However, that reasoning does not stack up for Hayley Andrews, who said it is her parents who are already having to balance their resources. 

"Our moms and dads got to leave work and change their schedule and come and pick us up and they're delayed because there's a parking lot full of vehicles," said Andrews.

Still, Stack and the English School Board said if a student is going to a school outside their designated zone, then they cannot ride the bus.

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