Sask. Rivers providing door-to-door transportation for young students

Kristen McEwen
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For Meghan MacFarlane, the school bus was the choice of transportation for her five-year-old daughter’s kindergarten year.

Emily Vandale, centre, approaches the school bus for her first day of kindergarten while her mother, Megan MacFarlane, and sister, Danielle, follow with a container of school supplies on Wednesday.

“When you consider how much you probably spend on gas driving a kid to school, even driving for the preschool program, that’s a lot,” MacFarlane said. “It’s definitely worth it.”

MacFarlane’s daughter, Emily, was geared with a bright pink backpack on Wednesday morning as she patiently waited for the bus that scheduled to arrive just before 8:30 a.m.

“I’m going to kindergarten,” Emily said. When asked what she might do at kindergarten, she thought there might be Play-Doh.

“She’s a little bit nervous,” MacFarlane said, noticing that Emily was shivering.

Emily is attending École Vickers Public School for the French Immersion program. Though Emily attended Vickers for the preschool program, taking the bus was a completely new experience.

“I wanted them in French immersion,” MacFarlane said, noting her eldest daughter is in Grade 7 at the school. “I’ve heard good things about them, they bus all over the town for French immersion.”

As part of the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division, Vickers offers transportation for students enrolled in the French Immersion program anywhere in the city.

This year, the Sask. Rivers Public School Board decided to expand transportation for city school students. For pre-K and kindergarten students who live more than 200 metres away from their school, will receive door-to-door transportation. Grade 1 to Grade 8 students living more than 400 metres away from their school can also be picked up by the bus within a couple of blocks from their home.

Roughly 4,800 kids will use the Sask. Rivers Public School bus transportation services, manager of transportation services Ryan Bruce said.

He estimated that 2,500 kids using the bus live in the city and 2,300 live in rural areas.

“Approximately 4,800 kids in the morning and 4,800 at night,” Bruce said. “We’re still finalizing routes but we anticipate to be driving 16,400 kilometres a day.”

If parents choose to send their kid on a bus to school, Bruce emphasizes that safety and caution needs to be exercised when waiting for the bus.

“A child should always wait a safe distance away when the bus is approaching or departing so they should always be three giant steps away from the road while the bus is coming.

“Never approach the bus until it has come to a complete stop in front of them.”

Bruce added that kids should be at their designated stop at least five minutes before the scheduled pick up and when crossing the street to approach or leave the bus, be sure to cross at intersections or designated crosswalks.

Safety around school buses not only applies to students, but to drivers as well. Though it’s not illegal to drive around school buses as children are loading or unloading inside city limits, people must show extreme caution when driving by, Bruce said.

The City of Prince Albert bylaw No. 54 of 1983 states school buses are not allowed to use safety lights and stopping arms within city limits. When outside city limits it is illegal to pass a bus when the stop arm is used.

The Sask. Rivers buses drive along 124 routes in the division. Twenty-five of the bus routes outside of Prince Albert are contracted, including Big River, Canwood, Shellbrook and Debden.

As of next week, Sask. Rivers will be adding another four buses to their fleet -- bringing the total to 118.

Bruce added that the school division currently has enough bus drivers however he is always looking for anyone interested in learning to drive school buses.

Organizations: Vickers, École Vickers Public School for the French Immersion, Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division French Immersion Rivers Public School Board

Geographic location: Sask., Big River, Debden

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