What will life be like for students who may have to take a bus to school if the Board of Education decides to close some high schools?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

What are the issues facing the eleven members of the Halton District School Board as they review the information that is going to be fed to them by Board staff and the delegations that are made by parents who do not want to see the school their children attend closed?

There are currently about 550 high school students taking a bus to get to school.

Using the different high school closing options the following is the projections that was given to the PAR committee.

Busing increases:

Nelson closes – add  364 students to the busing number

Bateman only   add 262 students to the busing number

No schools close   add  131 students to the busing number

Central and Pearson close add 602 students to the busing number

Bateman and Pearson close add  286 students to the busing number

Central and Pearson close add  615 students to the busing number

The projection is that more than 1000 students will be riding a school bus if Central high school is closed where a reported 92% of the students walk to school.

The cost of transporting those students is said to amount to $400,000 per year.

The amount of money aside – the real issue for the Board is going to be finding the people to drive those school buses.  The Board doesn’t actually have to find the drivers – the company they contract with has to find the drivers – but it all boils down to the same thing – school bus drivers don’t get paid very much

schoolbus-stop-signEarly in this academic year there were desperate pleas from the HSTS – Halton Student Transportation Service for people to apply for a part time job driving a school bus.

School bus drivers get between $55 and $75 a day; there are no benefits and they get paid for just the days they drive a bus.  A source told the Gazette that school bus drivers are amongst the highest users of Food Bank services in Halton.  This is an operation that is ripe for unionization.

The HSTS is a corporation owned by the Halton District School Board and the Halton Catholic District School Board and is operated on a cost recovery basis.

The French Catholic School Board was at one time part of the consortium but they dropped out.

Stuart Miller

Director of Education Stuart Miller

Stuart Miller, the Director of Education, has said that his Board has no idea how the manpower problem will get resolved in the event that the trustees decide Central high school should be closed. He has not said if there are any contingency plans being developed.

No one, apparently, taken a look at what student life will look like if 1000+ students are riding school buses to get to their classes.

What happens to sports teams?

What about student clubs?

What about their social life – how do they hang around and chill out and learn from each other?

The environmentalists will talk about the tonnes of CO2 the buses will pump into the air and they won’t do much for traffic congestion either.

Will there be two classes of high school students: one social class that uses a school bus and is limited in what they can do extra-curricularly because of the school bus schedule and another class of student that can walk or ride their bikes or have their parents act as chauffeurs?

These are all serious and significant issues – someone should be thinking about what the impact is going to be or will be looking at unintended consequences once we are six or seven months into a new school bus program?

The answers to the questions – or at last some kind of a projection should have been prepared by Board staff so that both the trustees and the parents have some idea of what the consequences are if a lot of high school students have to catch that bus every morning – and every afternoon.

What would a day in the life of a high school student look like if they were attached with close to an umbilical cord to a bright yellow school bus?

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12 comments to What will life be like for students who may have to take a bus to school if the Board of Education decides to close some high schools?

  • StoneyCanuk

    “No one, apparently, has taken a look at what student life will look like if 1000+ students are riding school buses to get to their classes.” The School Board must be joking!

    Here’s the City telling us that we must reduce pollution and walk or cycle to work or school… well this fiasco has just about killed off any of this BS rhetoric.

  • Joan

    How about doing a story on how many students with special education needs will be impacted if Bateman closed? Close to half of the students at Bateman have an IEP, a document that insures their teaching is modified to help them with a learning challenge. That’s well over any high school in the city.
    Many students in the Life Skills class have Downs Syndrome while others have serious physical disabilities. Some would argue this is an even more important issue than busing. Why? In addition to the fact those students do not transition well, students would lose out on the value of having ALL of those critical programs under one roof.
    Halton’s special education services have already been chopped by $2 million. Let’s not hurt those students any more by closing the one school that nurtures them and provides services for them more than any other in the community. Looking forward to reading the story on this.

  • Will

    It sounds to me like walking to school is the only way to exercise. Why not get the kids outside doing more after school rather than video games and such. Don’t forget that there are students that already have to be bused. It sounds like those who lament about having to walk to school haven’t considered that there are already schools where the majority of students are bused.

    Let’s also make sure we have the numbers right. It seems to me that there are students on optional attendance to certain schools that get driven to school already.

    There has been so much chatting about walking to school on one hand yet the city has provided wonderful bike paths and walking paths throughout the downtown core to Aldershot and Nelson areas. Just because you can take a bus doesn’t mean you have to.

    • Kerri

      My teenage boys have always played on their school sports teams. Those teams meet to practice at 6:45am before school (at least 2 days per week). They make it to those practices because they walk. A bus would not be available to them and a ride from mom and dad is NOT available. Families these days have 2 career parents and flexibility to drive kids to and from school is not an option. It would be very unfortunate that my boys would only experience the organized weeknight and weekend sports that we pay for. Busing would force them to lose the comradery that comes with participating on the school teams.
      In addition, after school (at 2:30pm when parents are still hard at work), one of our teenagers rides his bike to his after school job. This business closes at 5pm so he is able to get 2 hours of real life work experience. If they are forced take a bus, the long commute that comes with a school bus ride would force him to lose his after school job.

  • J. J. Walker

    I’m guessing our friend Will above must have a financial interest in a school bus company, as this is the only logical explanation I could come up with for such disrespectful single minded comments, or a comedian with a warped sense of humuor. Having said that I can only think that the busing contractors must be salivating over this decision. The school board has been misleading the public on the real cost of busing which are available on the Halton Transportation Services web site. Pepper’s numbers for the most part are reasonably accurate, the annual busing cost is low by quite a bit and the number of kids to be bused is also low for some of the options. So, Will, thanks for the heads up, more kids may need to be bused than Pepper suggests and the costs will be much higher, year after year after year – the bus company will be paid when the kids walk the 5 to 6 km or more (in some cases along major arterial roads), bike, or parents drive so they can attend before school or after school activities in January or February. Any school bus companies listed on the TSX?

  • The post misses one element. The students will make friends in the expanded catchments. These friends will not be in walking range and will bring in extra car trips “dropping and picking up” from friends houses.

  • Karen

    Bike paths are great idea but are you really asking students to bike/walk approximately 5 km to school and approximately 5km from school each day including in inclement weather on paths that may be very well not easily accessible from where they live? Students are already late to school due to the driver shortage.
    For those students in downtown core bussing is their only option besides parental drop off or incurring the cost of city transit. Gazette’s bussing numbers are based on HDSB information.
    On a side note: most students are not on optional attendance at BCHS. Students have been known to meet at adjacent park to play assortment of sports after school and then have the ability to walk home so there are additional exercise besides walk to/from school or being chained to video games.
    Many options negative for one is positive for another. There are no real winners except if the Trustees vote for no closures. Until the infamous report is published and our Elected trustees vote the uncertainty is stressful to all especially for those students who are potentially being uprooted.
    It is well past the time but not too late to let ones voice be heard. Stand up and delegate for what is best for all students of Burlington no matter where they reside in our city.

  • Sharon

    As a student, I rode a school bus both for elementary and high school. I also lived out in the country so there was no city transit. I went to school before and after for extracurricular activities.
    Both of my children also rode a school bus to school. They also participated in before and after school activities. If I was not able to take them or pick them up they used Burlington Transit. We live in MMR’s catchment my children (daughter graduated 2 years ago) and my son currently in Grade 12. Go to Robert Bateman High School because of placement. My son has ridden his bike to Bateman several times.
    Unlike Burlington Central, Robert Bateman has several students on optional attendance, because of programs that are not offered in their home school.
    I also would like to argue how many Central students actually walk? Drive down Brant St. before school starts and see how many cars are lined up along Brant to get on Baldwin. Same thing at the end of the school day.
    Again if the only exercise kids are getting is walking to school may I suggest to parents maybe they should use their parental authority and tell their kids to turn off the video games and internet and go outside!!

  • karen

    I am perplexed why video games are such a big part of this? Maybe those saying kids should get outside should stop by Central after school and see for themselves how many of our students are outside and stop commenting on the lack of exercise. It is the quality of lifestyle, education and what is best for all students that is at stake – the past is irrelvant in this. We need to be in a go forward mode what is best for the students (well-being, mental health and education)and the future of Burlington community. The article was stating what it would mean for students in regards to being transported to/from school. I am a Central parent; one graduated and one in grade 8. Both of my kids are/were dropped off by a parent in the morning however walked home after school. My grade 8 child would not have the “luxary” of being dropped off in the morning nor would he have the ability to walk home after school should he be diverted to a further school. The cost of city transit would also be a disadvantage for a great number of the Central families. Take a look at the economics of the families that attend BCHS. This cannot be ignored. As for riding his bike; there is not a hope in Hades that I would allow my son to use the New St. bike lanes and the bike path is not viable solution due to its location.
    As for the line up on Brant St. no comment here as I can say the same for all school zones – note the increased traffic on New St. at the start of school and end of school – just think how wonderful it will be to commute around Burlington with more busses on the road.
    In closing to Will and Sharon – Central students are not lazy as you are suggesting and they are not chained to video games. Our academics, robotics, extra curriculars both sports and clubs strongly suggest otherwise.

    • Kerri

      Great statements Karen. I also do not understand why these people reply to these articles with such animosity and short sightedness. I honestly feel that they harbour extreme jealously for what other school communities in Burlington have achieved. I would also like to add that there is ‘no way in hades’ I would allow my kids to ride their bikes to Aldershot. Each trip down Plains road they would be putting their lives at risk!

  • Courtney

    It was never stated once that walking to and from school was the only exercise students are getting in their daily lives. Find a stronger argument to your point rather than video games. Suggesting that Burlington Central kids are lazy because they rather walk to and from school then ride a bus really doesn’t make any logical sense, now does it? You’re sitting here telling our students that they should go outside and play more yet at the same time you’re also suggesting that they be confined to a bus as their only mode of transportation rather than walking home OUTSIDE like they’re already doing? Quit picking on the Central students for their need and their want to walk to school.

  • StoneyCanuk

    I concur with Karen’s comment. For six years, my son was a member of the Central High School First Robotics team. His after school time commitment in the winter months was three nights a week to sometimes 10:00 pm and Saturday until late afternoon. He walked there and back and he certainly wasn’t lazy!

    If Central closes, and the Robotics team is relocated to MM Robinson, because of the time of year, inclement weather and irregular hours I would have had to use my car to transport him back and forth. So much being eco-friendly!

    As it has turned out he would have missed out on what has proven to be a life and career changing activity.