A group of Lacombe parents are worried about their children’s safety when they cross two busy highways and a railway crossing to reach school on Tuesday.
Parents in the southeastern subdivision of Iron Wolf say they have no choice but to pay $486 to put their children on the school bus because they have to cross Hwy 2a and Hwy 12 attend James S. McCormick School.
On Tuesday evening, about 50 parents voiced their concerns with the dangerous route and the cost of the busing at a town hall meeting at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
In Alberta, the government funds school boards for students who live 2.4 km or further from their designated school. School boards charge students who live closer to the school to catch a ride. The distance is measured from a person’s front door to the property line of the school.
“The 2.4 kms is just too far for these kids to be walking especially in the winter,” said Tanya Kenyon, an organizer and single mother of two. “They have to cross two major highways and a railway crossing. It’s just too dangerous. It almost makes it impossible for a five, six and seven-year-old to walk.”
Kenyon said she works full time and she has no choice but to pay for busing for her son, who attends the kindergarten to Grade 3 school. Her daughter attends the Lacombe Junior High School and qualifies for busing.
Kenyon said it is baffling to her why she has to pay for her son when his school is on the same street as her daughter’s school.
“The pick ups and drop offs are the same,” said Kenyon. “I don’t understand why I have to pay for one and not the other.”
Three schools in Lacombe –– Lacombe Upper Elementary School, James S. McCormick School and Lacombe Junior High School, –– are lined up next to each other on 50th Street.
Parent Candace Bundock paid the fee for her six-year-old daughter to attend the elementary school last year because she doesn’t want her daughter risking her life to attend school.
“We have no choice,” said Bundock. “Walking is not an option. I understand there has to a distance exception but 2.4 kms is far too long for an elementary school student to walk.”
Bundock said there is a definite safety issue here that qualifies for special circumstances. She said driving is not an option for most families who work.
Parents would like to see the limit reduced or some sort of interim option put in place. Kenyon said the next step is to have the distances between the homes in the subdivision to the school measured again.
Wolf Creek Public School Division Supt. Larry Jacobs, Chuck Richter, transportation manager, and trustee Bob Huff, Rod Fox, Wildrose MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka, and city officials were on hand to answer questions from the parents.
Jacobs said he was encouraged by the meeting because school divisions across Alberta have long lobbied the province to reduce the limit to address concerns around young children, long walks and weather conditions. He is hopeful the parents and the division lobby the province together.
“Right now it’s so arbitrary at 2. 4 kms,” said Jacobs. “And it doesn’t make sense to parents. I can understand why they are upset. We’re 50 feet apart. Five hundred dollars for me and zero for them.”