A Red Deer mom wants Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division to develop a policy to ensure young students are not left at city school bus stops if a parent or caregiver is not waiting for them.
Tiffany Hughes said she forgot that her son Elijah, six, got out early from school on Monday afternoon so he was in the bitter cold of -28C for about 20 minutes before she arrived.
“I know it’s my responsibility to be there, but sometimes things happen,” Hughes said.
A female stranger saw him standing alone, stopped, got Hughes’ cellphone number from Elijah and called her. At that point, Hughes was only a few minutes away from the bus stop.
She said although Elijah, a St. Patrick’s Community School student, was dressed warmly, his cheeks were almost frost bitten.
Hughes said when she was late twice before in the summer, bus dispatch called her and the driver waited with her son, who was in kindergarten at the time.
“They flagged him for me so if that was to happen again, if the bus were to come early, they would sit and wait and call me to make sure I’m on my way.”
Ken Jaeger, supervisor of support services with the Red Deer Catholic, said some bus drivers will take it upon themselves to call dispatch or the family if no one is at the bus stop to greet the child. But it’s not something the division requires its drivers to do.
“We don’t have a policy or practice of calling if they’re not there,” said Jaeger.
“Parents need to be responsible to either be there to meet their children or have arrangements for them to get in the house or go to neighbours.”
Bruce Buruma, community relations director with Red Deer Public Schools, agreed it is the parents’ responsibility to make alternative arrangements, if necessary, for their children after they are dropped off by the bus.
Jaeger said information wasn’t available on Hughes’ complaint. But on Monday, its bus service ran as well as to be expected. Cold temperatures can slow down buses.
Jaeger said it’s also the responsibility of students and parents to be appropriately dressed for the weather, especially in the rural areas, or bus drivers can refuse to pick up students.
“If they break down, hit the ditch or get stranded, students may have to walk and be exposed to that cold. We don’t want students, when it’s -25C, in a sweatshirt and sneakers. How do we keep that student warm if something happens?”