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Province and parents weigh options for school transportation amid COVID-19

Click to play video 'N.B. asking parents to consider not sending their kids to school on the bus' N.B. asking parents to consider not sending their kids to school on the bus
WATCH: The minister says not having many kids on the buss would ensure there’s room for physical distancing, but as Travis Fortnum reports for some parents, buses are the only option.

The Province of New Brunswick is asking residents to consider alternate ways to get students to school this fall as they look to adapt school busses for social distancing.

In the Province’s COVID-19 release Monday, parents and guardians were “encouraged to provide transportation for their children if they can to minimize the number of students who require busing.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick announces details on day-to-day structure of upcoming school year

Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Dominic Cardy says at this point they’re just putting feelers out to identify demand.

“That’s all we’re doing now, asking people to step up if they can while recognizing lots of people can’t,” he says. “No pressure at all.”

Cardy says pandemic conditions may see a lot of parental figures working from home come September, possibly able to give the students in their household a ride into school.

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“In the context of COVID-19, we’re trying to do what we can inside the schools to make sure we’ve got enough space to make sure staff and students are protected,” he says, “and that obviously extends into busses.”

Parents, like Jill Rogers, are encouraged to see the province getting a head start at planning school transportation.

“I think it’s great that they’re trying to limit the amount of children on the bus to keep them safe,” she says.

Jill Rogers’ son Archie will be entering the 1st Grade in the fall.
Jill Rogers’ son Archie will be entering the 1st Grade in the fall. Submitted by Jill Rogers

But – for Rogers and her son Archie, taking the bus to school is the only option.

“I don’t have anybody else that could take him to school,” she says, “I no longer drive anymore due to a vision impairment – so I really rely on the school bus.”

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Archie is entering Grade 1 in the fall.

If he was a little older, Rogers says he might be able to walk or bike to school from their house – another option coming from Cardy’s call.

Nick Cameron shows some of the bike safety information available.
Nick Cameron shows some of the bike safety information available. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Nick Cameron, Government Liaison for Saint John Cycling, says it’s a great time to consider active transportation.

“It’s not going to be a solution that works for everyone,” he says, “but I think it’s one of those tools in the tool chest to reduce the burden on public transit that already had quite a challenge ahead of them.”

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Cameron says community groups have a wealth of resources ready for a push towards active transportation – they just need the government to get involved.

“Having direct involvement from the Department of Education or the school district really gives it clout,” he says.

“It’s one thing for Saint John Cycling to send a pamphlet home but it comes with a lot more legitimacy if it comes from [them].”

Cardy says they’re in the information-gathering phase right now, with school districts reaching out to families in the coming weeks to weigh transportation options.