Doctors express concerns at UCDSB proposal

CORNWALL – The increased physical and mental impact on students was key in a presentation made by Dr. Anna Williams and Dr. Claude Manigat to the UCDSB Accommodation Review Committee for Highland and Cornwall schools (ARC2b) January 23rd in Cornwall.

“A certain amount of bus travel is necessary to get to school,” said Dr. Williams to the crowd of over 450 people who attended the meeting. “However, an unusually long period of time on the bus has medical consequences.”

Dr. Williams cited disrupted sleep patterns for the earlier school day, affecting the circadian rhythm (biological clock) of students.

“The proposed longer and earlier school bus rides will put the students into a perpetual state of Jet Lag, which will result in problems with fatigue, concentration and learning throughout the morning.”

Williams added that children’s eating times will be disrupted and students are not allowed to eat on buses.

“Many will be nauseated by the time they arrive at school,” said Williams.

She added that school buses have issues with noise, air quality and lack seat belts and bathrooms.

“There is no air conditioning on a school bus,” the doctor stated. “Therefore, dehydration and heat exhaustion can develop. I have personally seen frostbite in a child who fell asleep with her cheek next to the window.”

Williams added that longer bus rides would lead to boredom and the likelihood of negative social interactions associated with bullying. She expressed concern with the reduction of physical activity and more sitting.

“We should be very concerned about the increase in sedentary behaviour. We are in the midst of a diabetes and obesity epidemic.”

Dr. Manigat spoke to the benefits of small schools academically and socially.

“Students have lower drop-out rates, and do better in schools,” said Manigat. “Small schools constitute a key ingredient in promoting the mental health and the well-being of students and teachers.”

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