School Busing

Next week my little girl is supposed to go into her first year of junior kindergarten.   Chances are- this will not happen.  I have moved to Ottawa from Kingston recently to keep my family together.  This is contrary to the past eight years that I have driven five hours daily from Kingston to Ottawa and back- leaving at five and returning at seven.  I see this as the right environmental choice and the right to choice for me and my family’s health.

I originally had registered my little girl at the Public school closest to our apartment, only to realize there is minimal daycare available- the waiting list is years long.  I transferred my little girl to yet another school because it was close to her daycare and more accessible to me in my commute to work.  At the end of the school year I was informed that my child had been granted the transfer, and more information would follow.  This approval did not entitle her to use the bus- my child had no transportation.

Four days until the end of summer I had received no information.  Being new to parenthood and Ottawa-I wasn’t aware that this was out of the ordinary until I talked to a colleague.   Waiting until the school was open- two days before school- I found out that there was a package I had not received:  I had missed the deadline for a convenient school package that consisted of everything my child would need for school, as well as any other information- such as dates for meeting the teacher. How were we missed?

I finally connected with the teacher and set a date for our parent- teacher child conference which is three days before her official intake day.  I still at this point have no information on what I need to get my child for the school year, and I am still under the understanding that she will not be able to take the bus to school- even though the school bus stops outside of her daycare during her intake time.

My little girl and I went to the conference.  The teacher was wonderful, and my child loved the school.  My only concern was that I will not be able to take her to the school- she will have to wait two weeks until the bus is approved- hopefully it will be approved.

While I realize that this system protects those who live in the area and district where their school is located with access to transportation, I would like to play the devil’s advocate for a few moments.

If my child has been approved to be part of a new school- part of that acceptance should be that the bus should work in tandem with the school’s approval process.  To tell a family that they have been approved to be part of a school, only to refuse them access to get there sounds Draconian.   Part of the approval process in admitting a child to a new school should be to accept that child as part of the transportation concerns.

To be clear-the bus that should pick my child up for junior kindergarten in the afternoon does stop at my child’s daycare- it is almost empty.  For the next two weeks my child will have to stay in her daycare and not attend the first weeks of school.  How is this fair?  Do the school officials not realize that this is penalizing the weakest members of society: those who might be financially unable to place their child in the closest school, have a nuclear family member able to stay home and drive their child to school or lack the extended family infrastructure to support them as their child attends school for the first year?

While so much talk in the news is about the challenge of the Transpo busses, and the need for better access to transportation around the ever expanding Ottawa and the rural areas, our school transportation doesn’t even acknowledge this diversity of population. What were school officials thinking?

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