Ocean Grove parents are concerned about their children’s safety following a decision by School District 72 to remove the Maryland Road bus stop.
Parents say that’s left their children to take unsafe routes in order to get themselves to Ocean Grove elementary school, just south of the city limits in the Crawford Road neighbourhood.
“My issues are the options these students have been given to get to (an alternate) bus stop and to then get to school,” said Lisa Broderick, who’s eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son attend Ocean Grove. “They can walk through Willow Creek Park where there’s frequent bear sightings or they can cross busy streets without safe crosswalks. It’s not a safe option in our minds and I don’t understand why the stop has been taken off the route. That’s where the majority of kids that get on the bus get the bus.”
For as long as Broderick’s daughter has been going to school, the Ocean Grove school bus has stopped along the Old Island Highway at Barlow Road near Rona, then at Dahl, followed by Twilingate, then on to Maryland, with the last stop at Washington, before stopping at the school. About five or six families use the Maryland stop.
But when school started last week, parents and kids were in for a surprise when the bus skipped the Maryland stop altogether.
“My daughter told me kids were missed on the first day of school because they were standing there and the bus just drove by,” said Broderick, one of a handful of concerned parents.
Superintendent Tom Longridge said he was “not aware of that” but pointed out that all the school bus stops were publicized in the newspaper before the start of the school year.
“There may have been an expectation in some parents’ minds and they may not have looked at the newspaper or on the website and assumed it was the same,” said Longridge who added a letter went home to Ocean Grove parents on Sept. 6 informing them of the route change.
Longridge said a decision was made to take the Maryland stop off the route after a review of the school district’s transportation system.
“It became evident that particular bus stop was not safe,” Longridge said. “The school bus was impeding traffic because it was not able to fully pull off the (highway) and it blocks the crosswalk and the signal lights for other motorists. It also blocks the visibility of motorists turning left off of Maryland onto the highway.”
The school district was also warned by the Vehicle Safety Authority, a branch of the provincial government, that SD72 would be ticketed if it continued to use that stop, because it was unsafe said Longridge.
A decision was made to scratch the Maryland stop but instead of replacing it, students have to choose between already established stops at either Twilingate or Washington, but getting to each stop presents its own challenges and is roughly a 15 minute walk away from Maryland Road.
Broderick said her two kids can catch the Washington bus and walk through the subdivision, crossing busy streets with no crosswalk, or they can get the bus at Twilingate but then they have to walk along the highway, with no sidewalk. If they want to avoid the busy Old Island Highway, they can walk to the top of Maryland, cut through the Willow Creek Conservation Area, and then walk back down to the bottom of Twilingate where they would have to cross, without a crosswalk, to the other side of the road where the bus stops.
Broderick doesn’t buy the school district’s reasons for scratching the stops.
“I’ve been right behind the bus (at Maryland) and it’s never been a problem to pass,” she said.
She also noted that the bus can’t fully pull over at Twilingate and the bus blocks the crosswalk and lights at Dahl, not just Maryland.
But Longridge said there is more room to pull over at Twilingate than at Maryland.
“It’s not as bad, it may not be ideal but it still meets the standards,” he said. “I think in that area it’s wider and there’s no ditch. At Maryland the bus has to stop right at the crosswalk and it blocks the amber lights flashing because of the height of the bus.”
At Dahl, the bus stops further back from the crosswalk than at Maryland so it doesn’t impede the view of drivers, said Longridge, who added there is also a city bus stop at Dahl, which the school district uses.
“Obviously we’re concerned about the children and providing a service as much as possible,” Longridge said. “We have walk limits and our policy is to transport them if they can’t walk. From what I understand they can move safely within the housing developments and they may choose to go through a trail as a short cut but there is a way to walk through the subdivision. It may be longer than they walked (before) but it’s certainly within the walk limits.”