Unpredictable winter weather caused a spat of school bus cancellations last week, the first week back from Christmas vacation. Students attended school only two of five days.
Cancelling buses during inclement weather is part of the Canadian winter experience. The procedure has changed a great deal in the last thirty years. Long gone are the days of listening to the radio first thing in the morning to hear specific bus route cancellations.
Back then routes were cancelled, not entire school boards. If you didn’t hear your route called, on to the bus you went. Routes were also delayed, and some times, students already at school would be sent home early to avoid upcoming storms.
Now with amalgamated school boards and consolidated bus transportation systems, school boards cancel buses for all students in those boards. Bus delays and early dismissal are no longer done.
Bus cancellations occur for good reasons, based on safety. However, school boards are much bigger than they were thirty years ago. Transportation companies cancel board-wide: students lose valuable class time in school.
The school boards that serve South Dundas cover an area ranging from Gananoque to Pakenham, from Hawkesbury, and along the St. Lawrence River east to the Quebec border, excluding Ottawa.
The Upper Canada District School Board alone covers 12,112 square kilometres. Weather patterns along the St. Lawrence River vary from those along the Ottawa Valley. Under the present system, however, adverse weather in one area cancels schools in all areas of the board.
School boards need to collaborate to find a solution to those the board-wide cancellations which result in kids missing valuable classroom time.
One solution might be to reinstitute the route-by-route, and school-by-school cancellations. This would ensure that students in areas not affected by adverse weather conditions would still be transported to school normally.
Another solution might be to have students make up the lost days either through cancelling professional development days in the boards or by other means.
The school year is short enough as it is to cover the necessary curriculum. The policy of board wide bus cancellations does not help.