Busing children up to 1 hour not unusual, school district says

The Eastern School District says it's not unusual for children to be bussed up to an hour to get to school.
Milton Peach speaking at meeting with parents and students in Swift Current Wednesday night. (CBC)

The Eastern School District says it's not unusual for children to be bused up to an hour to get to school.

The board is considering closing five rural schools, which means busing students from smaller communities to larger centres.

 Parents in Swift Current do not want their school to close because the trip on the school bus to and from Clarenville would take too long.  They say children could spend up to three hours daily on the bus.

Board chair Milton Peach said long bus rides are already a reality for many students in the district.

"We have places in our district, even within the environs of the city, it's more than one hour," Peach said Friday. "And in some cases, you know, it might mean you might be on a bus longer than somebody in another community."

Peach said the board would be happier if students spent less time on buses.  "Reality every now and then has to become what we have to do to maximize the efficiencies in our systems."

How busing will work

The board said travel time on the route from Swift Current to Clarenville would 45 minutes to an hour, at maximum.

A map showing the distance between Swift Current and Clarenville. (Google)

"In this particular situation we've looked at three separate bus runs," said Bruce Vey, acting director of education. "One from Swift Current, one from Garden Cove, one from North Harbour."

"We would not be picking up students along the route. These would be three separate routes going to the school system in Clarenville if this were to pass," Vey added.

Waiting for the washroom

In an interview with Anthony Germain, host of the St. John's Morning Show, Vey was asked if any of the buses taking students to Clarenville would be equipped with toilets.

He said having washrooms on the school bus was not a practice.

"That is one challenge," said Vey when pressed about an hour being a long time for a child to wait to go to the washroom.

"But we bus 26, 000 students a day on over 560 runs," said Vey. "We have many situations where the buses are running between 40 and 60 minutes, and we need to look at every circumstance."

Grade 6 student Jolene Butt asked what happens if she gets sick on the bus. (CBC)

2 classes of students?

As for extracurricular activities, Peach and Vey said there are creative ways for students to take part.  Vey suggested using lunch time as one possible solution.

"Many many students have the same challenge" said Peach. "That is no different than in St. John's, no different than in the Bay Roberts school system, the Marystown school system."