Every morning, a group of about 20 elementary school students get ready for school and wait along Beaverbank Road in Beaverbank, N.S.
Although multiple school buses pass them, none stop to pick the children up.
It’s been a recurring problem for the community dating back two decades. The only transportation students can access to get to their school is a Halifax Transit bus.
The issue of transit service was a hot topic at Halifax City Council this week. Staff wanted to eliminate free rides for the twenty students who attend Beaverbank-Monarch Elementary School.
While debating the bylaw, concerns were raised about why these kids don’t have to pay to use the city buses, when others do.
“We pay our taxes, so why do we have to pay to send our kids on the bus to go to school?” said Diane Lane, a parent of a Beaverbank-Monarch student. “Either let us have our [Halifax] Transit or give us a stock bus, it’s as simple as that.”
The province of Nova Scotia provides funding to individual school boards who then arrange transportation to students. The problem in this case is that the students technically live within a standard walking distance to the school.
Students face dangerous walking journey
That criteria is based off a direct line of travel —; which in this case would see students walk through a wooded area and skirt along a swamp. The only alternative would be to travel along Beaverbank Road, which sees more than 14,000 vehicles daily.
“A number of years ago there was a student who was actually walking to the school, was cutting through a wooded area and actually fell into, or somehow ended up drowning in a lake that’s down here,” said Brad Johns, councillor for the area.
Johns is hoping the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) can consider updating the criteria they use to determine walking distance for students, so more children can have access to transportation.
“This is not a unique situation across the municipality. I get calls all the time about people —; particularity with students who are in the elementary schools —; who are complaining about the distance their kids have to walk to school,” said Johns.
HRSB member Gin Yee says across Nova Scotia there is only transportation funding available for students who live 3.6 kilometers from school.
In Halifax, the criteria is different —; students are eligible to be bused to school if they live more than 2.4 kilometers away. Yee doesn’t think the standards will be changing anytime soon, saying it’s a matter of budget.
After much debate, councillors voted in favour of keeping the bus route as is. The matter will be before a public hearing in June. If it passes, the service will continue for the students of Beaverbank-Monarch Elementary School as long as its needed.