This past Monday marked the third Monday, and the fourth day in 2019, that the school buses were cancelled due to weather. Reviewing the bus cancellations, first, Jan. 7 and Jan. 8 the buses didn’t run due to the amount of snow expected. Jan. 28 the buses were cancelled due to extreme cold. Feb. 4, buses were cancelled because of expected freezing rain. As hardy as we are as Northerners, I get it, these were all good reasons to cancel the buses, and the board did the right thing by keeping the school buses off the road. What I’m wondering is, if buses are cancelled, why do the schools remain open?
Let’s break down the various arguments.
1) We cancel buses for safety.
First off, I applaud the idea. We don’t want school buses getting into accidents on treacherous roads. The flaw in this logic, however, is that if it is unsafe for children to be on the buses, how can it be safe for teachers, administrators, and support staff to drive themselves to school? The only way this makes sense to me is if we are agreeing that school buses are less safe than cars. Now perhaps we’re dipping a toe back into a pond that I wrote about many moons ago, asking why school buses don’t have seatbelts for their precious cargo?
With buses cancelled, and schools open, it forces students to find alternate transportation. This of course thrills parents to no end, and sometimes parents will say: “Walk to school!” (This may or may not be followed by a story of the long walks to school from back in their day, including having to walk uphill in both directions.)
But surely we don’t want students walking to school, even those who wouldn’t be on the buses in any case. If the roads are unsafe for school buses, they are definitely unsafe for kids to be walking on them. Remembering that many of us live in neighbourhoods where there are no sidewalks or that the sidewalks are not plowed in the winter, students cannot be forced to walk on the road in conditions that are deemed unsafe for school buses to drive on it.
Closing the school would show that buses were indeed cancelled for safety, the safety of students and workers alike.
2) We cancel buses to reduce traffic on the roads to allow city crews to do their work.
Again, a noble thought, allowing our civil servants to have an easier go at getting roads cleared. Again, the flaw is that if you cancel buses, this means that unless all parents keep their children home, that there will in fact be more vehicles on the road as parents and guardians have to drive students to get to school. Assuming 12 rows of bench seats, one on each side of the bus, with two students per bench seat, that means that 48 cars may now be on the road instead of one bus.
Closing the school would definitely decrease the number of vehicles on the roads for city crews, at least by the number of buses in the city.
So why would schools remain open?
Is it a funding formula issue? Does the school need to remain open to receive full funding from the ministry?
Is it a public service to all of the parents who cannot afford to take time off work when buses or schools are cancelled? Under the employment standards act, a school closure and inability to find child care would be a legitimate reason to miss work, but it would be an unpaid day. I understand that missing a shift can make it hard to meet expenses, but sadly this implies that schools might be kept open for day care purposes?
We all know that there is not a lot of learning going on on bus cancellation days … in fact, if you believe teenagers, they will tell you, emphatically, that no one goes to school on those days, which means there are whole schools with just teachers and administrators in them.
How about we just close the schools when we cancel buses, to keep students and staff safely off the roads?