Parents challenge bus route changes

 

November 13, 2019

 

By Hunter Cresswell


The Western Quebec School Board is considering changing school bus boundaries for St. Michael’s High School in Low and Philemon Wright High School in Gatineau and parents are worried – so much so that over 1,400 have signed an online petition. 


A change.org petition titled ‘Let our kids choose!’ aims to show just how much parents in the school district are against changing bus routes which would allow only students living south of Alcove and Masham to catch buses to Philemon Wright; those living north would only be offered bus service to St. Mike’s. 


Masham resident Heather Hopewell, who is also this paper’s administrative assistant, has four kids who have different needs and would do better in different schools. Her 12-year-old son would thrive at St. Mike’s while being left behind at the Gatineau high school. 


“I have a feeling that if he went to a larger school with a larger class size, he would fall through the cracks,” she said. Meanwhile, her 10-year-old son would be bored at St. Mike’s and excel at Philemon with its larger class sizes and sports programs. “He would fit in in a large group, so he would go to Philemon,” Hopewell said. 


She’s not the only one worried about what this change could mean for her kids – a Facebook group called ‘Rural Kids Matter’ has popped with a goal to stop the school board from making the changes. 


“There are a couple of parents I’ve spoken to who are worried about their kids falling through the cracks in a big school,” Hopewell said. 


According to a slideshow presentation on the school board website, the decision will be made on Dec. 17 to apply the changes as of the 2020-21 school year. 


“It’s important to stress that no decisions have been made,” WQSB director general Mike Dubeau wrote in an email to The Low Down. This reporter was unable to reach Dubeau for further comment before the publishing deadline. 


According to the presentation, the changes are to maximize efficient use of resources and ensure stability of St. Mike’s. With 147 students, St. Mike’s is nearing capacity and there is no transportation boundary between the two high schools. Students outside of the proposed transportation boundaries are grandfathered into the plan so they’re guaranteed transportation to their current school. Siblings of grandfathered-in students, if their cross-boundary application is accepted, may not have access to transportation after the 2023-2024 school year, after the last grandfathered student graduates. A consultation on the change took place on Nov. 12, after our publishing deadline. For more information, visit westernquebec.ca. Sign the petition at tinyurl.com/ygp9ak23.