Improved service and communication for students of the HWDSB who rely on school buses

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David Colley,
General Manager, HWSTS,
905.523.2318 ext. 3274
Fax: 905.549.5930


Alex Johnstone,
Trustee, Wards 11 & 12 (Vice-Chair), HWDSB
905.515.7082, ajjohnst@hwdsb.on.ca


October 25, 2018


We, the undersigned, again emphatically call on the Hamilton Wentworth Student Transportation Services and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to work together to (1) resolve longstanding student transportation issues including significant pick-up and drop-off delays, and (2) provide timely, reliable, and accurate information to parents and caregivers through electronic communication. We also ask that related conversations involve the City of Hamilton and the Province of Ontario to develop creative and effective solutions to these problems.

We already submitted an online petition dated September 5, 2018 with 130 signatures requesting that both entities collaborate to fix the ongoing bussing issues in the Hamilton Area. Shortly after, there was a temporary reprieve until significant delays emerged again. Across Hamilton, and in particular our community at Shaver Estates in Ancaster, the delays we now experience are not isolated but rather form a pattern that causes significant disruptions for the schedules for all parties.

We have planned our lives around the schedules issued by the school board and the transportation service. However, with these continuous disruptions, we share a growing frustration with families in our community as the impacts of these transportation delays touch our children, our families, and our schools. Some of the most evident areas affected include those listed below.

1.) Student Fatigue: Before school children are waiting in the increasingly cold mornings for busses. This extended exposure tires children even before they arrive at school. In addition, young children are waiting upwards of 2 hours after school. Those in JK to Grade 1 are most vulnerable to fatigue after a long day. This fatigue can impact their moods and their ability to learn.

2.) Student Fear and Frustration: Young children, particularly those in kindergarten, grow confused, frightened, and agitated when routines and expectations are shattered. This does not make school enjoyable for children and creates great frustration for them and their families.

3.) Unfamiliar Buses and Drivers: Changing bus drivers and altering routes too often, as has been practiced in Hamilton, can also unsettle children who thrive with routine and familiarity. Even more and too frequently, buses diverted to cover routes are not posting the route numbers in the windows. This leads parents and caregivers to be unsure about the bus on which they are sending their children.

4.) Young Student Isolation: Most young students don’t have cell phones and can be left out of regular communications with parents when a regular schedule changes. Some parents also do not have the means to be at the bus stop for their children every day. This could leave younger children stranded waiting for morning pickups if buses are delayed.

5.) Student Health and Comfort: Students face compromises to comfort and health when having to wait for extended periods in the morning cold, or, in some cases in June or September, un-air-conditioned and hot gymnasiums/hallways after-school.

6.) Family Scheduling: Families planning events and appointments trust that children will be picked-up and dropped-off on time. Consistent disruptions impact after-school activities, homework times, and planned appointments.

7.) Family Costs: Parents and caregivers requiring stability in schedules are incurring unnecessary costs such as before- or after-school care, taxis or ride-sharing services, public transit, or increased commutes.

8.) Family Time: Families planning on spending time together in the mornings and/or afternoons are deprived of the opportunity to play and converse together when significant delays occur.

9.) Jobs: Parents and caregivers who end up driving students often do so at the expense of their work schedule either having to come in late or leave early to accommodate the children. Repeated occurrences can impact job performance and security, putting families at greater risk.

10.) Overwhelming School Resources: The impact on school resources (already stretched thin) are evident. Teachers deal with interruptions as late bus-riding students arrive after class commences. Administrative staff field higher call volumes as parents/caregivers seek updates about the bus and about the status of their children. Senior administrators often end up supervising children who have to wait for busses after school. These administrators have significant responsibilities and adding this increases unnecessary stress and burden.

As we noted in the September petition, these problems are completely unacceptable, particularly since this is the third school year in a row. These ongoing problems are widely known. Yet any measures taken to resolve the issue have achieved no improvement. We know that you can do better, and we expect better.

Driver recruitment and compensation programs may be need to be revisited. Merging or modifying bus routes may be required. Improving the accuracy of information delivered online and through electronic media is fundamental. Tracking busses in real time using web-based tools as done by many municipal transit systems (e.g. Grant River Transit) will give parents/caregivers better tools for immediate planning (such as waiting indoors until the bus is closer).

These are just a few of the possible solutions we know can be explored. We eagerly await your speedy and collective resolution to this avoidable mess and to improve the lives of our children and our families.


CC:

Manny Figueiredo
Director, HWDSB
director@hwdsb.on.ca
905.527.5092 ext. x 2297

Fred Eisenberger
Mayor, City of Hamilton
Email: mayor@hamilton.ca
Phone: 905-546-4200
Fax: 905-546-2340
Hamilton City Hall
2nd floor - 71 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8P 4Y5

Lloyd Ferguson
Ward 12 Councillor, City of Hamilton
Email: lloyd.ferguson@hamilton.ca
Phone: 905-546-2704
Fax: 905-546-2535
Hamilton City Hall
2nd floor - 71 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8P 4Y5

Hon. Lisa M Thompson
Ontario Minister of Education
416-325-5838
minister.edu@ontario.ca

Sandy Shaw
MPP, Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas
177 King St. W
Dundas, ON, L9H 1V3
Tel 905-628-2755
Fax 905-628-1280
SShaw-QP@ndp.on.ca



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