Parents anxious as bus standoff continues

Thousands of parents in the London area are biting their nails as they wait to hear what is to come of a continuing standoff between the regional busing authority and area bus operators who want more money.

Thousands of parents in the London area are biting their nails as they wait to hear what is to come of a continuing standoff between the regional busing authority and area bus operators who want more money - writes lfpress.com

Fifty-thousand area kids and their parents relying on school bus transportation may need to find another way to get to school come Sept. 4 if an agreement isn’t reached between the transportation consortium representing the Thames Valley District and London District Catholic school boards and the Southwestern Ontario School Bus Operators — a group of seven bus companies.

Last week, negotiations between the two groups broke down but talks are slated to resume this week.

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(Getty Images)

A joint e-mail statement from the bus operators that was sent to the Free Press said they are not insisting on a contract before September.

“All we’re asking for is a fair process that ensures all sides stay in negotiations until a contract is reached,” the statement said. “We are meeting with the school boards this week and hope they will agree to move forward with us.”

The statement said operators and drivers want to get back to safely driving kids to school every day.

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Erma Schadenberg has four kids who all rely on the school bus. Two of them attend Louise Arbour French immersion elementary school while the other two attend Sir Frederick Banting secondary school. Schadenberg said the two schools are about 10 kilometres apart and the school day starts at both at the same time, making it difficult to drop all of them off.

“It’s not impossible, but it requires both my husband and I to make a trip each with one set of the kids,” Schadenberg said. “If it was a single parent or a single vehicle home, it would be impossible, one would have to be early or late and those that have no vehicle would have to rely on the city bus.”

And while Schadenberg said her high school kids are able to take the city bus, they would need to wake up earlier since the ride to school would be about an hour long. She said they would be catching the bus around the time they normally wake up.

Schadenburg and her husband both work from home and start around 9 a.m., she said, but she said for parents who have to go to work, getting their kids to and from school could mean being late or leaving early.

Doug Reycraft, a former member of provincial parliament and the former warden of Middlesex County said the bus issue will affect people living in rural areas as well, since they don’t even have city buses on which to rely.

“It’s going to be a major inconvenience if they aren’t able to come to an agreement before Labour Day,” Reycraft said. “(Otherwise) there’s definitely going to have to be some scrambling on the part of families with students.”

Reycraft said this issue is compounded in areas where schools have been consolidated and students who would have attended a school that has been closed have a greater distance to travel. He said some students travel 30 to 40 minutes by bus to get to school.

“But rural communities are pretty resourceful,” Reycraft said. “I’m sure they’ll be contacting friends or relatives who can provide the transportation.”

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