Winnipeg School Division looks at fast-tracking ’empty-seat policy’ – Manitoba

The Winnipeg School Division is one step closer to changing a transportation policy that has left some parents frustrated after finding out their children wouldn’t be allowed on the school bus this year.

A division policy that had allowed the parents or guardians of children who didn’t qualify to take the bus — either because they lived too close or attended a “school of choice” as opposed to their catchment school — to pay a nominal fee to use the service was cancelled earlier this year as a cost-saving measure.

That’s left parents like Denise Jones scrambling to make arrangements after learning her daughter wouldn’t be allowed on the same school bus her son takes to school, even though the pair both go to the same school.

“Having the transportation to the school is critical for our family,” said Jones, who attended a WSD board meeting Monday that saw trustees discuss the issue. “It’s an important issue for our family and for others who have a similar situation with the two different schools.

“Some families have two different pick-up times and two different pick-up locations for their children every morning and that’s not feasible.”

Jones said the issue facing her family stems from the fact her daughter, who is now in Grade 2, had been moved from École La Vérendrye to a newer nearby school for the last two years because of a shortage of space at École La Vérendrye.

While her daughter has been grand-fathered back to École La Vérendrye this year, Jones said under the division’s new bus policy, her daughter is considered to be going to a “school of choice” and isn’t allowed to take the bus with her brother.

“For us it’s keeping our kids in the same school since they’re both in elementary school and quite young.”

To make matters even more confusing for parents the division’s new policy didn’t apply to children enrolled in bilingual instruction.

The chair of the Winnipeg School Division, Sherri Rollins, said the division and trustees have been receiving an average of six calls a week since the changes were enacted in March.

Winnipeg School Division chair, Sherri Rollins. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

Rollins is proposing the division add an “empty-seat policy” to their transportation plan that would let a student who would otherwise be deemed ineligible for the bus take the bus, providing the bus has an empty seat open on its regular route.

It’s a policy Rollins said is being used successfully by other large school divisions in major…

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