WATCH ABOVE: A group representing almost 40-thousand Calgary students is circulating a petition aimed at putting an end to the Calgary Board of Education’s new bus system.
CALGARY – Alberta’s education minister is now involved in the congregated bus system controversy after the Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils (CAPSC) launched a petition against the new system.
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“Decisions on busing service are the responsibility of school boards,” said Minister of Education David Eggen in an email to Global News. “My office is aware of the concerns specific to Calgary. I have asked my staff to monitor the situation and encourage the school board to work to address the concerns voiced by parents in a timely manner.”
The group of parents, which represents 72 Calgary Board of Education (CBE) school councils, is also asking parents to send letters to Eggen and their Calgary MLAs to take action.
As of this school year, routes with less than 15 riders on the bus have been cancelled and tagged onto other, busier routes. This has resulted in what the CBE calls a maximum 2 km walk for some students to their bus stops. That equals about 13 city blocks, or a 28-minute walk according to Google Maps. The CBE recommends parents carpool each other’s children to the bus.
The CAPSC says there was no consultation about the changes, and claims they are impacting families’ schedules and childcare.
“If changes are not made before the snow flies we are in for some trouble because we’ve got little kids making 30-minute walks along major arteries with no sidewalks, and that is absolutely a safety issue,” said CAPSC president Lisa Davis on Thursday. “It is our expectation that change is going to be made.”
The petition lists the following requests:
Stakeholders in public education require the CBE to restore walk times to bus stops to previous levels;
• True public consultation on transportation strategies take place immediately;
• An independent financial review of transportation fees take place, including Calgary Transit fees paid by parents.
Clare Cotton, who signed the petition online, wrote: “It is irresponsible to expect children to walk up to 2 km…and then wait for a bus in the freezing cold. It is also classist to expect that everyone owns a car they can use to drive their child to the bus stop and can then afford to take time off work while they wait for their child to get on or off the bus.”
Francisco Granadillo wrote: “My kid’s stop was moved to aprox (sic) 1 km further and now a main street with heavy traffic needs to be crossed. This add more risk for the kids and the adult going to the closer stop
CBE blames a provincial funding gap for the cancelling and merging of bus routes. Officials said without the service cuts, families would’ve paid 50 per cent more for transportation.
“That’s that fine balance, because not all of our families can afford transportation services and we do not want to deny any child the access to any of our schools,” said the CBE’s Joy Bowen-Eyre on Tuesday.
The previous Progressive Conservative government had made education funding cuts, but the NDP government has since restored the funding.
CBE officials have promised to consider any concerns and requests brought forward, and met with parents Thursday.
Davis said during that meeting, CBE “refused to advise” CAPSC as to when the bus system issue would be addressed.
“We are hoping the CBE acknowledges that they have created undue hardship for families, and they should deal with that quickly,” she said.
With files from Gary Bobrovitz and Dallas Flexhaug