Peel School Board Bussing Policy

I have just written to my Peel Board Trustee, Chair and the Minister of Education about Peel’s bussing policy and am reproducing the letter here.

Eligibility for bussing is as follows and was recently revised downward.

Busing eligibilty

The distance a child must walk to the bus stop is even less.

Walk to bus stop

Trustee Singh, Chair McDougald and Minister Hunter,

On the final day of Bike To School Week at Robert J. Lee Public School, the mother of a kindergarten student was locking his bike to the rack as I was counting the bikes. The bell had already rung.  She told me that they had been running late and she told her son they would drive the car to school.  “No Mum”, he told her, “I have to ride my bike and exercise my brain”. I was thrilled.  The message being given at RJ Lee is working and children, even very young ones, can influence their car dependent parents’ behavior.

Unfortunately, the Peel Board of Education, unlike this kindergarten student, does not recognize in its transportation policy,  the importance of building exercise into the lives of children, and continues to enact policies which lead to obesity, behavioral issues and lower test scores.

Brain on exercise

The Peel Board should be taking a leadership role in teaching the next generation that the habits of theirs parents have led to a health crisis, and congestion and injuries on our roads.  Teaching children healthy habits takes more than talking at them in classrooms, it takes leadership and modelling. It requires board wide encouragement of Active Transportation and minimizing the wholesale bussing of children.

The recent policy change to reduce eligibility distances for bussing is a travesty, and not only are the eligibility distances too short, the maximum distance a child must walk to a bus stop is at least as bad.  If children who are bused were required to walk up to the same minimum distance to their bus stop as children who do not receive bussing are required to walk to school, there would be benefits.

  • Children would get more exercise on the way to and from the bus stop
  • Fewer bus stops would be required leading to the potential for
    • Shorter travel times
    • Cost savings

My four children aged 12-19 have attended or are attending Peel Board schools.  They have walked to school, or when attending high school programs outside our catchment area, walked to and from public transit.

The first year my eldest attended middle school she qualified for bussing. She chose to ride the bus, not because the distance was too far for her to travel, but because the bus was available.  She rode it because her friends did.  This behavior occurred in a child who regularly walked much longer distances and was raised in family that engaged in, and promoted, active transportation. Such widespread availability of unnecessary motorized transportation for children is a serious disincentive to exercise.

I encourage you to read the Brampton Kids on Bikes report which makes very plain the destruction caused by a car dependent society.

I also encourage you to read about the success I have had, in partnership with Johnna Varriano, principal of Robert J Lee Public School, in encouraging cycling to school and reducing road congestion.

I encourage you to be leaders.  Leadership is leading people somewhere they wouldn’t otherwise go. Reducing bussing eligibility distances won’t be popular, but it is the right thing to do.  Do the right thing.  Re-visit this policy.

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