Don’t put kids at risk: trustees

Oppose reduced snow clearing

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Pembina Trails school trustees have issued an impassioned plea to the city not to save money on snow clearing at the expense of children's safety.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2013 (3360 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Pembina Trails school trustees have issued an impassioned plea to the city not to save money on snow clearing at the expense of children’s safety.

“We’re not in favour of reduced width of the clearing of streets — that creates a safety issue for children travelling back and forth to school,” superintendent Lawrence Lussier said.

The city is studying a consultant’s report that says making low-priority city streets passable, rather than clearing them curb to curb, would save taxpayers up to $3 million a year.

Joe Bryksa / Free Press archives The city is studying a consultant's report that says making low-priority city streets passable, rather than clearing them curb to curb, would save taxpayers up to $3 million a year.

Not at the cost of children’s safety, Pembina Trails said in a letter to Mayor Sam Katz and the city’s other school divisions.

That would endanger kids walking or cycling to school, slow down school buses and make it difficult if not impossible for some special-needs kids to board buses in residential areas, school board chairman David Johnson wrote.

But the children in Pembina Trails may not have anything to worry about — at least not this winter, a spokeswoman for Katz said Thursday.

“The mayor is not in support of changes to the snow-clearing policy,” Katz’s communications director, Rhea Yates, said. “I don’t sense there’s a large appetite among councillors for change.”

And to top it off, “the administration asked for an extension to March” to study any changes, Yates said.

The appeal from Pembina Trails doesn’t leave cost-cutting councillors much wiggle room.

“Narrower cleared streets would cause students walking to school or waiting at school bus stops to be in closer proximity to street traffic,” Johnson said. “Those who ride bicycles will also have to ride further from the curb and closer to traffic. These conditions will increase the risk of vehicle-student pedestrian accidents, particularly as many students walk to school in areas which have no sidewalk.”

Many streets in Pembina Trails, particularly in Charleswood, have no sidewalks. The division stretches from Fort Richmond and old Fort Garry to Whyte Ridge, Linden Woods, Tuxedo and Charleswood.

“The narrower lanes will increase travel time, particularly for our larger school buses, as greater care will be required in traffic. Exercising greater care may require school buses to travel at slower speeds in more congested conditions,” Johnson said.

But the greatest impact may be on special-needs children, said the Pembina Trails school board chairman.

“Many students with special needs, particularly those requiring wheelchair transportation, are picked up at their residences. Many of these students’ houses are located on bays, which can be difficult to access in winter conditions even with the current snow-clearing protocol in place,” Johnson said.

“Were the city to adopt its proposed changes, which reduce residential snow clearing, the result may impair our ability to provide the current transportation service to these students and reduce the level of service being provided,” he said.

Most students throughout the city walk to their schools — and are encouraged to do so to provide exercise and enhance their fitness.

And while there is proportionately less busing within the city than in rural areas, there are about 100,000 public school children within Winnipeg — many of whom are bused because of the programs in which they’re enrolled, the distance they live from a school, or because they have special needs.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

How happy are you with the city’s approach to snow clearing? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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