Parents protesting plan to cancel school buses

May 5, 2016   ·   0 Comments

The consortium that provides bus service for the Upper Grand District School Board sees no problem in requiring 200 students to walk from the Purple Hill area to Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS).

But the students’ parents disagree and plan a demonstration tomorrow (Friday) against the announced plan by Wellington-Dufferin Student Transportation Services (STWDSTS), which provides bus service for the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB), to end the current bus service in September.

In an email sent to the Citizen Wednesday, the parental group said they are “very concerned for the safety of our kids, as the make their way to school in September.”

“Recently notices were mailed to families in two subdivisions in Orangeville to announce that those areas will no longer qualify for busing to the public high school Orangeville District SS. The two subdivisions affected are Rolling Hills and Purple Hill. … This change will effect approximately 200 high school students.”

“Highway 10 is a provincial highway with posted speeds of 80 km/h. That intersection is six lanes wide plus off ramps. Highway 10 is a main transportation route through Dufferin County, it is heavily travelled by transport (18 wheeler) trucks, gravel trucks, commuters and those pulling travel trailers,” the email said.

“The intersection is also compromised by the hilly topography in the area, making grading of the road variances difficult for drivers to see pedestrians.”

Suggesting the intersection is the busiest on the highway between Brampton and Owen Sound, the parents said it has “no advance warning to drivers, thus making these teens very vulnerable.”

As for a contention by the consortium that pedestrian safety is the responsibility of the local municipality, the parents noted, “this is a provincially managed intersection.”

Announcing their plan for a demonstration at 3:15 p.m. tomorrow at the intersection, the parents added, “We are asking for public support to help our School Board think safety first,” and asked the Citizen to cover the “Community Safety Demonstration.”

Heather Loney, the school board’s Communications and Community Engagement Officer, said the decision to end the bus service was made “during a routine re-assessment done by STWDSTS.”

She said the current bus service is an “exception area” where transportation is provided as an exception to the board’s distance policy. “STWDSTS looks at transportation exception areas annually to determine why there was an exception in place and assess if the exception parameters have changed.”

She said the ODSS students “were never eligible for transportation by the UGDSB distance policy, they had been provided transportation because they were in an exception area.”

The consortium’s staff having determined that the Purple Hill area no longer required exception transportation, its board of directors gave final approval on the re-assessment.

“The UGDSB Board of Trustees sets the walking distances, taking into consideration the age of students, and cost. There are different distances depending on the age of the students and these walking distances are applied consistently across the board.”

As for the safety concerns, Ms. Loney said the consortium has asked the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) “for a number of changes surrounding the intersection to increase safety. Requests made to the MTO include extending the walk time at the intersection; adding signs northbound and southbound on Highway 10 indicating that pedestrians will be crossing; asked for flashing lights both north and southbound of the intersection; and more.”

She said parents who are unhappy with the outcome can appeal to the STWDSTS, and following that process, they can then send a delegation to the Upper Grand board.

“Safety of our students is our top priority, and we at the UGDSB look forward to hearing back from MTO regarding the requests made by STWDSTS.”

Barb White, Orangeville’s trustee on the Upper Grand board, said “I am actively working with the parent community, listening to their views and making sure they are communicated effectively to the transportation consortium.”

Ms. White’s predecessor on the board and its former chairman, Bob Borden, said the bus service in question was operating when he arrived at the board in 2002, and likely had been provided by the former Dufferin County Board of Education.

Written by Tom Claridge


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