One of the concerns by parents and students of the proposed closure of Seaway District High School by the Upper Canada District School Board is the longer bus routes and transportation times.
In the board’s proposal, the student population of Seaway DHS would be split between North Dundas District High School near Chesterville and South Grenville District High School in Prescott. The dividing line between the two schools is Highway 401.
If the plan is approved in its present form, students in the southeast corner of South Dundas in Riverside Heights would have to travel to Prescott, a distance of 45 kilometres via county roads.
Students in the southwest corner of South Dundas will travel a similar distance to NDDHS near Chestervill. It is estimated that with stops, transportation times will increase to an hour one way.
“I drove highway 2 for 20 years working for my dad in Prescott,” said Rhonda Barkey-Shaver, who has a daughter currently at Seaway who would travel to Prescott next year. “They [the roads] are crap in the winter because of the wind that comes off the St. Lawrence River.”
While school boards like Lambton Kent Disrict School Board in south-western Ontario have transportation policies regulating the length of time a student spends on a bus, the UCDSB does not.
An inquiry by The Leader to the UCDSB was forwarded to Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO), the consortium that operates the school bus system for the UCDSB and other boards.
“There is no specfic policy,” said Ron Cotnam, general manager and CAO of STEO.
Cotnam went on to explain that the consortium has internal procedures to monitor and check routes to try to have no more than one hour of travel time per direction per day. The board’s proposal for the splitting of the students from Seaway does not indicate increased transportation costs for transporting students to NDDHS and SGDHS.
The report does indicate a cost savings of $110,000 for transportation with the elementary school populations housed in the closed high school.
Under the March 2015 Ministry of Education’s Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines, each School Information Profile (SIP) is to document the “longest, shortest, and average length of bus ride times.”
The PAR guidelines also state that proposals must include “how student transportation would be affected if changes take place.”
The UCDSB “Building for the Future” report does not include details for Seaway DHS students other than that they would be transported.