May 23, 2015


Local

Alternative sought to 90-minute school-bus commute

Some students at âcole Stanley Knowles School and âcole Garden Grove School ride the bus for up to 90 minutes each morning and then repeat the commute on their way home.

Not only is that against the law -- a bylaw was passed six years ago mandating a maximum of 60-minute bus rides in Manitoba -- but with unpredictable pickup times, young children are often waiting for extended periods during the winter.

Oh, and they're often up to 30 minutes late for the start of classes.

"You can get to U.S. quicker," said Winnipeg School Division trustee Mike Babinsky, who is spearheading efforts to get the kids to school faster.

One father, who requested anonymity to protect the identity of his 11-year-old daughter, said she's supposed to be picked up at her stop at 8:28 and arrive at Garden Grove 27 minutes later.

Students are asked to be at their bus stops five minutes early, but he said sometimes the bus doesn't show up until 9 a.m. That means she's often outside for 40 minutes, which can seem like an eternity when the wind chill is hitting new lows.

"They're freezing in minus-40-degree weather. It's a 20-minute car ride," he said.

In addition, some children would get in trouble for acting out on the bus during the lengthy rides.

Late last fall, the father called the school division's transportation department and was told the problem would be fixed immediately.

"The next day the bus was late again. They give you different excuses. 'The bus broke down,' or 'We've got a new bus driver,' " he said.

That's when he contacted Babinsky.

The school trustee started driving around the North End to see what was happening, even following behind the bus several mornings to see the timeliness and efficiency of parts of the route, along which nearly 50 children were picked up.

When the bus arrived at each school, he assumed just a few kids would get off.

"They're so small you can't see their heads on the bus," he said.

Babinsky and the father believe the solution involves another bus and driver and perhaps more centralized stops that can pick up 10 or 12 children rather than the milk run that does virtually door-to-door service.

There are 60 school buses in the Winnipeg School Division serving 80 schools, including students with special needs.

Babinsky has written a letter to the Winnipeg School Division and its trustees with his concerns.

A spokesperson from the school division was not available for comment.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2014 B1

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