It’s 8:40 am on Wednesday, and instead of being en route to school, brothers Joshua and Kaleb Haughton are sitting on the couch in their downtown Toronto home watching Transformers: Prime.
Their shoes and jackets are on, knapsacks packed, but the only subject they are studying this early morning is the epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons.
The brothers are late for school again. It’s a regular occurrence for them that their parents say is beyond their control.
Nine-year-old Joshua has a heart condition that prevents him from making the 20-minute walk from their home to Lord Dufferin Public School. Due to that health concern the Toronto District School Board has allowed Joshua and his eight-year-old brother to take a mini school bus to class for the last year-and-a-half; but it’s not working out so well.
“Yesterday and the day before were probably the latest that (the bus) has been,” the boys’ mom Laurie said.
Classes start at 9:00 am. The bus is supposed to arrive at their house by 8:36 am, but Laurie said it is almost always late and rarely gets them to school in time for the start of the day.
“The latest was about 9:25. (Tuesday) was 9:22.”
Adding to the delays, the bus not only has to pick up special needs students from the brothers’ school near Parliament Street and Dundas Street East, it also picks up students headed to Nelson Mandela Park Public School on Shuter Street near Sackville Street. It also drops the Mandela students off first. That means that when the bus picks the boys up at 8:47 am as it did Wednesday morning, they are guaranteed to be late.
While Kaleb doesn’t seem to mind it all that much “because I want more time to watch TV,” Joshua, who already struggles with communication due to a previous stroke, feels like he’s falling behind.
“I miss stuff. And I don’t like it,” he said.
“Like spelling tests and language and some math.”
Laurie said the boys’ teachers have been helpful and understanding of the situation, but she’s frustrated because it just shouldn’t be this way.
“Everybody’s got a different story about whose fault it is,” she said.
“You call the company, they tell you it’s the driver or the (school) board.”
Laurie feels that while it’s the drivers who have to face up to parents’ complaints about the delays, they’re not the ones that deserve the blame. From speaking to various operators, she said she feels that they are overworked, underpaid and often driving multiple routes because those conditions lead many to quit.
The boys’ morning bus is operated by Wheelchair Accessible Transit Inc.
Global News made multiple attempts to speak to a manager from the company Wednesday, including visiting its Toronto offices, but received no information about the cause of the delays.
Laurie said she’s received similar treatment.
“I’ve been trying to get a hold of them. Nobody phones me back, managers don’t call.”
The company is contracted by the consortium that oversees school bus transportation for all of the city’s public and Catholic schools; the Toronto Student Transportation Group.
In an emailed statement, General Manager Kevin Hodgkinson told Global News:
“We understand that bussing has been inconsistent at times for these students and that’s why staff are working with the bus carrier to ensure these delays are reduced as much as possible.”
The Haughtons would beg to differ on one point in that statement.
Laurie feels her sons’ bus service has been quite consistent. Consistently late. The consortium’s response doesn’t give her much hope that things will change anytime soon.
“I’m livid at this situation,” she said.
“And I’m frustrated because nobody will help.”
Laurie doesn’t have reliable access to a car, so short of cabs or public transit, she said she’s got no other options to transport Joshua and Caleb to school.
“It’s frustrating and it makes me angry and I feel like every day I start my day with higher blood pressure.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.