Parents call for accountability in school-bus 'chaos'
The number of voices calling for greater accountability over school busing is growing after more Halifax-area parents say their kids experienced “chaos” over the last few days.
Many parents say their child’s bus came late, sometimes after school started, or didn't come at all.
It was a frustrating first week of school for parent Jillian Gallant.
First, she says the bus stop for her five-year-old's after-school program was changed at the last minute.
Then, on Thursday, her son and a group of other children weren’t allowed on the bus at all because their names weren’t on the manifest.
Her son was left unsupervised at the school and no one told her until 20 minutes after he was supposed to arrive.
“This morning, he didn't want to go to school,” said Gallant. “I think he's a bit nervous that he won't be taken to his after-school program, he'll be left at the school again.”
She contacted the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) and Stock Transportation about what happened, but hasn't heard anything back. She says while Stock is the bus company, the HRCE is ultimately responsible.
“They do have to accept some degree of responsibility and they need to be more accountable,” said Gallant.
The spokesperson for the HRCE says staff is working through and prioritizing the hundreds of calls a day coming in from parents.
“I'm sorry on behalf of the Halifax Regional Centre for Education,” spokesman Doug Hadley said.“We have a plan in place to ensure that we take students regardless if they're on the manifest or not, to and from school. There are cases now where we're encountering, where we are seeing some overcrowding situations, but we're problem solving with Stock.”
This time last year, worried parents had the option of reaching out to their elected English school board members. But the provincial government dissolved all seven boards in the province this past March.
That means parents have to contact the Department of Education, the HRCE, or Stock Transportation.
Gin Yee was chair of the former Halifax Regional School Board.
“There would be a benefit of having a school board, having the direct contact of constituents to elected officials who are specialized in education matters,” Yee said.
Former school board rep Jennifer Raven is more pointed.
“There were meetings between the school board and Stock shortly before the elected boards were dissolved and there had been commitments made to have a much smoother roll out this year, we knew changes were coming,” she said.
And now, the issue is political, with the Nova Scotia Legislature in session.
“As a government, we've made transformative decisions in education all with the intention to improve the level of service to kids, improve their level of achievement and wellbeing,” said Education Minister Zach Churchill.
Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender says she’d like to see all the promises that were made fulfilled.
“I would like to see local voices strengthened, I would like to see local solutions to local problems, I'd like to see all of the children in Nova Scotia get to school safely every day,” she said.
The issue is bound to come up in the House again next week, the second week of school.
Hadley says the HRCE is committed to working with Stock through all of this and says staff at Stock and the HRCE will be working through the weekend to sort out any other issues.
He says the hope is that things will get better every day.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.