Staggered bells and buses

OPINION

Bus Consortium to parents:

‘We regret that this will cause disruption to people’s lives.’

Full disclosure: I am a father of two children, 6 and 4 years old respectively, who are enrolled at Killaloe Public School.

When I first found out about the newly proposed staggered bus system, an idea that is being presented as a money-saving scheme, propped up by what might as well be a slogan that says, “Everybody else is doing it,” I was a little gobsmacked. In case you are in the dark, below are the key points parents are dealing with if this system is adopted.

First, this decision is being made by the Renfrew County Joint Transportation Consortium (RCJTC). They are tasked with providing safe and timely transportation for students across Renfrew County. Instead, the new system will see children as young as mine arrive home later than high school students, with some kids not getting home until after 5 p.m.

Up until now my kids have been getting home at 3:15 p.m., but under the new system they won’t arrive until 4:45 p.m. We were never consulted about this change, nor were any parents we know.

I decided to reach out to the RCJTC and ask them to explain how the decision was made, why the decision was made, and if they had an explanation for younger students bearing the brunt of late pick-ups.

Justin Jeffrey, Assistant Manager at RCJTC, offered the following: “By operating transportation in an efficient manner within the transportation funding allocation from the province we can ensure that education dollars are not diverted from classrooms to cover transportation costs.”

In my follow-up email, I asked Jeffrey how he can cite education dollars being directed back into the classroom but he did not respond.

He did admit that this proposal would impact people’s lives, but when asked if he thought forcing an untold number of people to adjust to a new schedule that many find intrusive and unnecessary, he simply stated the obvious:

“… we have found that families, babysitters, daycares, and extracurricular activities have been able to adjust their schedules to accommodate new bell times.”

Well, yeah. What choice did they have? Were they supposed to just not adjust and hope it all works out?

To be crystal clear, not giving people a choice except one – to adjust to whatever they are told to adjust to – is not a choice at all; it is a dictate. The RCJTC is forcing adjustments from the very people they failed to consult in the first place, all during a pandemic that has thrown all of our lives upside down already. 

I then asked Jonathan Laderoute, Communications Manager for the Renfrew County and District School Board, if there were any studies to estimate the rise in cost for parents who will need to pay babysitters, daycares, or who may lose income and/or their jobs in order to accommodate the new system. I also asked again whether or not parents were at least surveyed about the proposal. His response:

“… our district did not solicit parent/guardian input.”

And there you have it. It’s almost as if they just thought it wasn’t important to speak directly to the people impacted the most – and that’s not just parents. A bus driver, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the new staggered schedule will likely result in drivers receiving less compensation for mileage which will eat into their income and give carriers turnover headaches.

Let’s be honest; the RCJTC did not bother surveying parents because I think they knew it would not have received public support. Why else would they appear so impotent when trying to explain their lack of action?

But some parents are fighting back, and many will be attending an online meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31. The meeting is hosted by the RCJTC and is being held virtually at Killaloe Public School. Click HERE for the Google.Meet link.

This isn’t some arbitrary decision made by a government hungry for efficiencies. If anything, this is a nickel and dime scheme, one that will save money for the RCJTC, at the expense of the rest of us.

Hopefully, when the meeting begins and it is clear nobody is there to heap praise, the powers that be will not just reconsider the details, but scrap the system entirely.

Photo Facebook/RCJTC

Editor’s Note: This article was amended at 8:11 p.m. on Mar.29 to show a corrected meeting date of Wednesday March 31.

2 Comments

  1. Denise Brotton

    They tried this about 12 years ago, and parents had a meeting with them in the high school caf, not one parent was in favour of this and it didn’t go through, but now they are implementing it without parental input at all. It makes no sense to their cost savings theory. How is running the buses over the routes 4 times a day saving money, (twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon)? Double the mileage, double the gas, double the driver’s salaries? This DOES NOT work in rural Renfrew County.

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