This year, our school children are riding a white bus that is not following provincially legislated school bus rules, because it is, according to the Municipality of Jasper, a public transit bus providing select ridership for a special school route.
This new town school route and service to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is helpful for so many Jasper families and I am grateful that the municipality was willing to enter into this transportation partnership.
However, I continue to question how a white school bus, running a route that specifically goes to and from school, carrying only school children is not—for all intents and purposes—a school bus.
And, if acting as a school bus, why does it not have to follow school bus legislation?
On Tuesday (Nov 28), while listening to the lengthy council debate over the safety of a few particular crosswalks and intersections, I couldn’t help but wonder how the very clear safety risk of school children being transported in a non-conforming, sub-standard school bus, continues to be overlooked.
That same Tuesday afternoon, at my daughter’s stop, I watched five children cross the road after getting off the bus. Two kids looked both ways before running across the street, two stopped to look when half-way across, and the smallest came following 10 feet behind, looking only at his boots scuffing the ground.
If the bus were yellow with flashing lights and a stop arm, traffic would be obligated to stop, providing kids with a safe road crossing… not to mention, a yellow bus would be more visible when turning left onto the highway, in the snow.
Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) has been clear in their messaging that parents should be meeting their children at bus stops, that we’re teaching children safe road-crossing, and ensuring our kids use crosswalks. The Municipality of Jasper has been adamant that they are following all necessary public transit regulations.
GYPDS also tells parents to ensure our children sit in their seats and not block the aisles, yet the municipality tells me they are legally allowed to have more riders than seats on the bus.
It boils down to mixed messaging, dollars, talks of contracts, and fingers being pointed this way and that.
Meanwhile, every afternoon, our little kids continue to ride this bus and cross our streets unsafely.
I know I’m not the only person sharing this concern. I also know I would not forgive myself for not speaking up if one of our little ones was hurt.
Jennifer Stolfa, Jasper, AB