More students will be bused to school under a plan to reduce the walking radius around schools in the region.
The decision from the Waterloo Region District School Board stems from longstanding concerns of parents about the safety and efficiency of the school bus system. Changes approved this week will take effect in the new school year.
In safety discussions over the years, one issue which was repeatedly brought to the board’s attention was that of walking distances for students.
Currently, school bus service is available to junior kindergarten to Grade 3 students who live more than 1.6 kilometres from school; Grade 4-6 students who live a distance greater than two km from school; Grade 7and 8 students who live more than 3.5 km from school and Grade 9 through 12 students who live greater than 4.8 km from school.
“Many parents and guardians felt that 1.6 km was too far for a child in junior kindergarten to be walking, so we have tried to incorporate that sentiment into the proposal,” explained board chairman Mike Ramsay.
When the new plan is implemented, transportation will be accessible to junior and senior kindergarten students who live more than 0.8 km from the school, students in Grades 1 through 8 who live farther than 1.6 km from the school and students in high school who live more than 3.2 km from the school.
The board is implementing computer software to optimize school bus routing, supplementing previous efficiencies achieved by staggering school bell times, multiple run bus routes, optimal loading, and shared bus routes.
“The biggest change we will see is that at the end of the day, kids will not have to walk as far to get to school, which is very positive for young people in small towns,” said Margaret Coleman, manager of communications for the WRDSB.
Student Transportation Services of Waterloo Region (STSWR) plans, implements, communicates and monitors the transportation of about 25,000 regular and special needs students daily. The service is provided using area school bus operators, six taxi companies and Grand River Transit. The new plan will allow some 8,000 additional students in the region access to transportation options, said Ramsay.