The mother of a CedarBridge Academy (CBA) student has said she, like many parents at the senior school, is at wit’s end with the Department of Public Transportation as it feels as if students are being discriminated against by some bus operators.
The Sandy’s woman, who asked not to be named, said CedarBridge Academy students who catch the bus to and from school from all parts of the Island, seem to be left out in the cold, literally.
“This happens daily; this happens on a sunny hot day, a dry cold day, a torrential rainy day...any and every day these kids are left on the kerb.
“Children who walk from CBA to Crow Lane because no west bus has arrived are again left on the kerb by the buses coming out of Hamilton. Bus drivers pass the children by denying boarding rights, essentially implying to the kids through their actions that they can't go home...stranding the children. PTB stated that this should not be happening and told the children to take the bus number down, the time and possibly the bus driver and report the incident to the school or to their parents. I have told my child to do just this.”
“We all have the same sentiment which is that our children are being disregarded going to and from school, from east to west. For parents, this translates that Government/PTB doesn't care about the education of our youth in its public school system.
“These children are being set up for failure. Classes start at 8.30 a.m. and without buses getting the kids to school from east and west, parents question how the kids are expected to be successful. The children are missing class instruction time and are expected to catch up. Children have missed out on the start of examinations because of this ongoing matter.”
The mother continued: “CBA is a great school with a foundation set for greatness and although the school has no control of the buses in the morning, it was believed that the school should ensure buses were at the school for the close of the day. However, through discussions at this week’s PTSA meeting, it was discovered that the school had been taking statistics on bus transportation from the east and the west. So it was appreciated on the data being collected by the school, which reaffirmed their commitment to the parents for a solution to be brought forth.
The CedarBridge Academy parent said she was impressed by Principal Kalmar Richards taking the initiative to collect data which reflects the transport deficiency: “I was impressed that such data was being collected. PTB did not address the matter regarding the lack of buses appropriately to the PTSA body. PTB expressed how there was a roster in place since 1998, they stated how there was a committee in place of operators that designed a new schedule which the operators at large rejected. They also stated that when the drivers come onto a shift in the morning time, they put their route in. All of this translated to parents that operators dictated what route they chose to drive, that the drivers chose not to do the CBA morning and afternoon drop off and collections or allow CBA students on buses not defined for their school.”
When asked if she believed that CedarBridge Academy students were treated worse by the PTB than students at The Berkeley Institute, she said: “I do believe that there is a disparity between how the two major Government Senior Schools are treated by PTB. At the end of the day, PTB is accountable for issuing a route to service the island, the public schools during school time, and the residents. PTB has not claimed any accountability for its inaction to fix this ongoing problem. Parents are advocates for their children, so they show up to Parent Teacher Student Association to voice their concerns. Children of CBA showed up at the PTSA meeting to voice their concerns. These children are affected emotionally by the discrimination that they experience.
“We can say it's school versus school, we can say it's one school being looked in a better light than the other and therefore favouritism is provided over another. At the end of the day, it is adults who are allowing this issue to roll over without presenting solutions. PTB had major excuses but no solutions on how to fix this situation.”
She offered another example of how the students are overlooked: “CBA experienced discrimination by the bus service over their two-day sports at Nationals. The buses left on the first day when it was discovered that the sports were CBA, not Berkeley. On the second day, no buses showed up. Again, kids walking from Devonshire to Pembroke for a bus from the terminal to take them East or West.
“It was shared that the buses were at Nationals when Berkeley had their sports the following day. No buses to CBA that whole week. PTB could not speak to the WHY this was allowed, or HOW they were going to fix the problem. They only offered more excuses.
“During the PTSA meeting, it was debated amongst parents and Mr Santucci, the Board Chairman, over whether this was a Union matter. I think it is a partial Union matter as PTB kept referring to the bus operators CBA and why they weren't compliant with the roster changes.
“In addition, the Union always called bus drivers and ferry drivers to strike first in the cause of union disputes even if it didn't have anything to do with the buses or ferry drivers. This is another reason why parents are mad because on top of the issues for kids on a normal day, those strike days kids just cannot get to school by any means if the parents do not have transportation.”
She concluded: “Overall, parents are disgusted by this situation. Children are being attacked as they are forced to walk in various directions i.e. Crow Lane, Parsons Road, Palmetto Road because Pembroke Parish children view the children of CBA, albeit school mates, as threats. Ambushing takes place when there are no buses outside of the school grounds. The PTB does not call the school and state well in advance of the end of the school day that there will be no buses. They have claimed they have but there seems to be no record of the attempt; again excuses.
“Parents are fed up. Fed up of the attacks, fed up of the bus situation. Children have opted to save up and hustle for bikes by the time they reach S2 so that they do not have to bother with the bus situation. Parents were told that the Union would not allow the minibus operators to step in and help out but parents again got mad because if they chose this option who is anyone else to say they couldn't pay for this service for their child when PTB presented no options.”