A group of County moms are speaking out in the hopes of reversing a Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) decision to stop busing some students to and from school in Haliburton and Minden.

In letters distributed by local principals to parents in April, TLDSB said it has recently completed a review of transportation routes in Haliburton County. It has decided students who live in the villages will no longer be bused. The change impacts one family Wilberforce and none in Cardiff.

The board’s policy states elementary-aged students living within 1.6 kilometres of school, and high school students within 3.2 kilometres, aren’t eligible to be bused. The rules will come into effect in September.

Carolynne Bull, TLDSB communications lead, said the review completed in Haliburton and Minden this school year is similar to ones done in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Kirkfield, Kilworthy, and Fenelon Falls.

“These reviews look at whether exceptional conditions exist and whether changes are needed,” Bull said. “During the Haliburton/Minden review, it was noted the conditions in the villages… are similar to those in other areas of review and similar to the conditions across TLDSB for schools without any exception areas.

“Sidewalks are not a factor in the board’s decisionmaking. Posted speed does play a factor, though posted 40km/h [zones are] considered safe,” she added.

Bull did not respond to questions about how many County-based students will be impacted by the change, and whether TLDSB stands to save any money.

Minden resident Aurora McGinn said she has spent weeks looking for answers. Living on Water Street, approximately 1.2 kilometres from Archie Stouffer Elementary School – where her daughter, Marina, is in Grade 1 – McGinn said she’ll be stuck come the fall.

“We’re a one-vehicle family, so this is a problem for us. I will have to drive my husband to work, then my daughter to school, then get myself to work later than usual. I’ll also have to leave early to collect my daughter and take her home,” McGinn said. “They are saying she could walk, but she’s very young right now.”

Parents say decision ‘not safe’

McGinn says she has asked multiple times for a copy of the review TLDSB completed but is still waiting. The Highlander has also failed to obtain a copy.

“I want the truth – if TLDSB claims to have done a review, they should be willing to share it,” McGinn said.

April Hirstwood, head of the ASES parent council, said this is a major concern for the community.

“What TLDSB is doing is not OK. It’s not safe. We don’t have crossing guards. We don’t have lights where kids can safely cross,” Hirstwood said. “Towns like Lindsay have a set up for kids to walk to school safely. Minden and Haliburton do not.”

She believes these new rules will lead to a drop in attendance at ASES and other schools.

“It’s going to be easier for some parents to just let their kids stay home,” Hirstwood said.

TLDSB transportation supervisor Tricia Hayward indicated the concerns the board has heard thus far, “are considered to be normal, everyday risks where due caution can and should be exercised by students and parents.”

Minden Hills CAO Cynthia Fletcher said the township is investing money this year to improve overall community safety, including new signage along Water Street, two new digital speed signs on Water Street and Bobcaygeon Road, and extending community safety zones – which carry a 40km/h speed limit – on Bobcaygeon Road from Sunnybrook Bridge to Hwy. 35, and on Water Street from Bobcaygeon Road to Hwy. 35.

Issues in Haliburton

Lorena Selk said the new rules will leave her without childcare for her youngest child, who is in Grade 3 at Stuart Baker Elementary School.

Selk said her high-school-aged son will no longer be able to ride the bus, so has less time to look after his sibling.

“Finding alternate childcare is next to impossible. I have the best built-in sitter already, I’m very frustrated about this,” Selk said.

Hayward said it was parents’ responsibility to find a safe way to get their children to and from school, and organize child care, not the board’s.

TLDSB is set to review its transportation policy next year. McGinn said she’s hoping to inspire change.

“I would suggest children under the age of 12 shouldn’t have to walk 1.6 km to and from school. Perhaps for the older grades that may be more acceptable, but for young kids who come home exhausted already, it’s too much,” McGinn said.