Parents pushing for Calgary school bus changes ask CBE to ‘Walk a Kilometre in my Shoes’
CALGARY – A group of concerned parents marched a symbolic 1.8 kilometres through downtown Calgary Tuesday to experience firsthand what a walk to school is like for children impacted by the Calgary Board of Education’s (CBE) controversial congregated bus stop system.
The Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils (CAPSC) invited decision makers within the CBE to join them, but no trustees agreed to participate.
“This allows us to experience what school children do as they travel to and from bus stops, twice a day, in all weather conditions,” read a statement on the CAPSC website.
Some Wildrose and PC MLAs spoke at the event, “Walk A Kilometre in my Shoes.”
The group travelled from the corner of 5 Avenue and 7 Street S.W. to the Education Centre, in advance of a Board of Trustee meeting.
They presented board chair Joy Bowen-Eyre with a petition bearing 1,300 signatures, which asks the CBE to cap walking distances to bus stops at 0.8 kilometres, just like the Calgary Catholic School District.
The congregated bus stop system, put in place for the 2015-16 school year, reduced the number of yellow school bus stops on each route. The CBE said in a statement released Sept. 1 that the new stops were put in place to address a funding gap, and would decrease ride times for students.
Shortly after school started, an online petition was launched requesting the CBE “restore walk times to bus stops to previous levels.”
Afterward, the Calgary Board of Education announced it would be changing its congregated bus stop system so no elementary student would have to walk farther than 1.6 kilometres to catch a bus, and no junior high school student would walk farther than 1.8 kilometres.
Parents say that distance is still too far, especially for Grade 1 students.
“Half the time, she’s miserable,” said Autumn Rae of her five-year-old, Willow. “(She says), ‘my legs hurt, my legs hurt,’ and so the babysitter kind of picks her up and runs — we’re really worried about the winter.”
Education Minister David Eggen said he would consider changing regulations on walking distances in the future, but isn’t offering any further transportation funding to the CBE at this time.
“I think that they need to work through this new systems approach that they have put in place,” Eggen said.
The CBE said it wouldn’t make any more changes to its busing model without completing a major public consultation.
“We’ll take this petition and we’ll review it, and we appreciate them coming down,” said chairwoman Bowen-Eyre.
With files from Sarah Offin
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