A Dartmouth mother says she's "incredibly frustrated" with a Halifax Regional School Board policy, after two dozen families received notice their children won't be transported by school bus to an after-school program.

A letter sent to parents from the principal of École Shannon Park School explained that students are assigned to bus routes based on their home address rather than a destination such as an after-school program, according to Halifax Regional School Board policy.

The letter stated that there wasn't space on the bus to accommodate students going to the Marshall's Active Programs at the Banook Canoe Club, a 10-minute drive from the school.

Courtesy cutbacks

Jennifer Chapman has relied on courtesy busing for three years to help get her five-year-old and eight-year-old to after-school programming. She said she was surprised by a call at work last Friday afternoon telling her to pick up her daughters immediately.

"The solution is not for parents to leave work and drive their children around," Chapman said.

"In this day and age, a lot of parents are both working and can't afford to be at school to pick up their kids.… That's not the world we live in today."

Jennifer Chapman with her younger daughter Sadie 5

Jennifer Chapman with her younger daughter Sadie, 5. (Jennifer Chapman)

This fall, Halifax Regional School Board cut back on courtesy seats available to students who live within walking distance of school or who ride buses they're not assigned to.

Halifax Regional School Board spokesperson Doug Hadley said there are fewer empty seats on buses this year because elementary schools now have one dismissal time instead of two, making it unnecessary for bus drivers to complete their routes twice, as they did previously.

In an email, Hadley said students do have the option of exiting the bus at any stop along their assigned route and aren't limited to their designated stop.

'It doesn't reflect reality'

Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender said assigning bus routes by home address is "designed around what's fiction now, that the majority of families have a parent at home."

Jennifer Chapman's daughters are 8-year-old Penny and 5-year-old Sadie

Jennifer Chapman's daughters are 8-year-old Penny and 5-year-old Sadie. (Jennifer Chapman)

"I understand for simplicity's sake it makes sense, but it doesn't reflect the reality," said Chender, the NDP critic for Education and Early Childhood and Development.

Chender sent a letter to Education Minister Zach Churchill Wednesday morning requesting a full review of school busing services in the province.