Change the "Walk Zone" Policy sign now


PETITION FOR THE SAFE ARRIVAL OF OUR CHILDREN

For the Director of Education, the Boards Transportation Managers, Renfrew County Catholic District School Board and the Renfrew County District School Board and any other agencies involved with the transportation of our children to schools in Renfrew County to review their responsibilities in providing a safe and efficient joint busing system for their pupils, changing the walk zone policies to ensure safe arrival of all students in the interest of students safety, comfort and security.

This petition was inspired when a family moved to a new home, after being assured by the childrens' school secretary that the bus company would transport the children to school. After the move and several frustrating phone conversations with the Transportation Manager, it became apparent that despite all efforts, the only child from the family who would be allowed to travel by bus was the 4 year old son.

On his first day of school, the boy was dropped off at the wrong school, which turned out to be an unexpected catalyst as the Transportation Board would not have been contacted otherwise. While on the phone with a secretary from the office of Mr. Ivan Johnson, Transportation Manager, the family was dismayed that what they had thought was a waiting period while a bus was arranged for the other children informed was in fact the revelation that the bus would not be delivering any of the older children to their school because of a walk zone policy, which excluded families within a certain radius from the school.

The family had been concerned at the time of the move to the new home about the distance it would be for the children to walk, but those concerns were alleviated by the school secretary who assured the family that their new home was outside the walk zone and the children would be able to ride a school bus. Before the move, the distance was measured using the family vehicles odometer which confirmed the distance and move was then made to the new home. This was explained to the Transportation Manager who was less than cooperative, reiterating the policy and suggesting that a plea be sent to the Board of Trustees. It came as a surprise that anyone would have to ask them to change the rules to better accommodate the many children in the area who walk to school, sometimes in unacceptable and unsafe conditions, and seemed the suggestion was a bluff more than an actual suggestion.

In this familys case, the ACTUAL distance to the school entitles the children to ride the bus, but according to the Transportation Managers calculations, this family home is about 1.4kms from the school and therefore the children have been denied transportation. Despite insistence that the walking distance from the home to the childrens school is not in fact within the walk zone and the mothers willingness to prove as much, Mr. Ivan Johnson offered the family only the option to allow one of the 4 year olds siblings to babysit him on the bus so to prevent him being lost, again. Babysit, presumably because the driver of the bus is not responsible to ensure his safe arrival? At this point, we can have more faith in the driver, who was at least was willing to be accountable and was extremely apologetic after the incident with the young son being dropped at the wrong school on his first day. According to the prevailing attitude, we are to accept the fact that none of our children will be admitted on the bus unless it is to accompany their young sibling.

This is apparently because, as stated in the current policy:

o The calculation of distances, to determine eligibility for transportation, will be the distance by public road from home to the normal bus loading/unloading area of the school using the shortest route.
o Public roads are deemed to be roads under the jurisdiction of a municipality and maintained year round, as part of the current municipal road system.
o Pathways, deemed to be safe by the Boards and community at large, may be used in the calculation of the shortest route.

This means that the calculation of distance is not necessarily along sidewalks; also included in the distance between house and school are walking paths. The shortest route is described in one phone conversation with the Transportation Manager as the crow flies. This is just NOT right. Saying that pathways are deemed to be safe is not the same as pathways that are safe in any condition, any weather, in any season and at any time of day. Certainly that lovely park that some children wander through on their way to school in the spring is less than navigable during the winter. But, as Mr. Ivan Johnson pointed out in a recent phone conversation, there are many other parents who feel the same way, that THEIR kids should be able to take a bus, too and we cant just take all the kids whose parents dont want them to walk

At the time of the inception of this petition, the policy stated:

o Transportation may be provided for pupils, notwithstanding the distance requirements set out by the Boards, where particular pedestrian hazards and/or individual hardships are identified and recommended by the Transportation Committees.

After the response to the mothers pleading email, it was evident that this is NOT the case as the Transportation Manager offered once again, the option to allow one seat for a sibling to accompany the 4 year old as a "babysitter". Identifying particular hazards AND individual hardships did little more than result in increased feelings of helplessness and vulnerability when the reply was exactly what has been reiterated time and time again:

NO your childs safety is not our concern
NO your child is being discriminated against because they do NOT have a medically documented disability, are in the wrong grade, live a few metres too close according to OUR calculations
NO your family problems/individual hardships arent as pressing as our list says they should be, but thank you for taking the time to send us a list of your problems
NO if we drive your child to school, it will cost us more in insurance

NO MORE!

Gauging the distance from the home to school should be done by more compassionate means, or if nobody from the Transportation Board is willing to walk with all of these children to school every morning, someone should at least ask themselves WHY parents are constantly asking for their children to be included on the buses and why the automatic answer from the people in charge is NO.

This is unacceptable. Please, make yourselves accountable for the children that are being neglected for the sake of money and policies. These are children whose parents are fed up with fighting the system, fed up with arguing with unreasonable people over numbers for the rights of their children, and fed up with being told the rules and policies matter more than the safety of their child. Some of these are parents who are left feeling that their childrens security is not much more than an inconvenience to those in charge. Many are military families with enough hardships to compile extensive lists, too busy keeping it together to bother fighting yet another policy.

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It is with these points in mind that we petition that either;

A: The Director of Education, the Boards Transportation Managers, Renfrew County Catholic District School Board and the Renfrew County District School Board arrive at our doors, promptly at 0800 every school morning, commencing immediately, to walk with and ensure the safe arrival of each of the children in the area who have been rejected for courtesy transportation to the security of the front door of their respective schools;

OR:

B: The policy of the 1.6 km walk zone be adjusted to a reasonable, safe and comfortable walking distance in any and all seasons or weather, and to no more than a distance of .5 km for children between the ages of 4 and 8 and no more than 1 km for all children between the ages of 9 and 14 regardless of grade level; furthermore, if any parent contacts the Transportation Board because a childs safety is a concern, it will be arranged as soon as possible that child shall be admitted to board a bus at the closest existing stop to the family home to demonstrate the Boards commitment to the safety of the children in its jurisdiction.

Thank you.

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Ralph HarrisonBy:
Business and CompaniesIn:
Petition target:
Director of Education, the Boards Transportation Managers, Renfrew County Catholic District School Board and the Renfrew County District School Board

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