September 15, 2014 6:36 pm

Parents outraged after TDSB refuses to bus children to school

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TORONTO – During the school year, thousands of children across the GTA pile into school buses.

It is something a half dozen families living near Yonge Street And Finch Avenue watch with envy.  They say the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is denying their kids a ride, even though they qualify for it.

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The children live at 29 and 39 Pemberton Avenue and go to Finch Public School.  According to TDSB regulations, students have to live more than 1.6 kilometres away from school to get a seat on the school bus and according to various internet searches Finch Public School at a distance of nearly 1.7 kilometres from the complex – qualifying the kids, theoretically, for bus transport.

The reason they have to go to school so far away is because the closer McKee Public School is overcrowded.  One of the children, 8-year-old Diba Rahbar, even attended McKee for a year before being forced to move.

Her father says the district provided a bus for the first year after the switch then said, no more. “The TDSB doesn’t answer us, they have to explain why you don’t have a school bus this year,” Said Sohrab Rahbar.

According to Rahbar, the school board is trying to get around the rules by measuring the distance to the back door of their complex on Finch Avenue, to bring it under the cut off point.  Instead they say it should be measured from the main entrance and legal address on Pemberton.

The TDSB is standing by its claim the families don’t qualify.

“It is my understanding one entrance is onto Finch and another on a different street in the area. All I know is when our transportation staff looked at this specific building and did the proper measurements they felt it was on the cusp of that 1.6 kilometre boundary,” said board spokesperson Ryan Bird.

The families say they have even provided proof of their legal address.

Charlies Olujimi, a father to two of the impacted children, said the confusion creates unneeded stress and impacts his work day.

“Sometimes I have to leave work early just to get them back from school and when I have to stay later for work, that’s really hard on me,” he said.

It is a similar situation for the Porter family, which also has two girls.

“My dad has to come from work to pick us up and then when he drops us off he has to go back to work,” grade four student Jennifer Porter said.

Global News contacted the school board about last week.  Now they say they have found surplus seats on a bus for the afternoon ride home.

But there’s still no space in the morning.  TDSB officials say the new spaces are part of an “empty seat policy” that finds open spaces on school buses once the school year starts.

The parents say it is not good enough: Based on their address, their children should automatically qualify for seats to and from school and should not have to wait and see if they get leftovers.

“For a nine- and seven-year-old particularly, if everyone remembers February of last year, to go to school, to walk 1.6 kilometres is quite unreasonable for two very young children to walk to Finch Public School in the depths of winter.  I think it’s ridiculous,” said Brian Porter.

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