SOUTH DUNDAS – A large-scale change to bell and bus times is in the works for students attending English language schools in the region.
Schools in the Upper Canada District School Board, and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario will see an overhaul of start times this fall. Schools from Gananoque, east to Morrisburg, and Prescott-Russell will be affected by the changes. This is part of a three-year overhaul that officials say will save over $3 million per year in transportation costs.
Beginning in September, all elementary school students will start school between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m. Secondary students will move to 8 a.m. start times.
In South Dundas, the largest change will be for Iroquois Public School students. IPS students share buses with Seaway District High School students and start at 8 a.m. Under the changes, IPS will move to the later start time. Seaway will remain as an 8 a.m. start. Bell times for St. Mary-St. Cecilia Catholic School and Morrisburg Public School may be adjusted slightly. Both of those schools already have a late start time.
Schools in South and North Stormont, South and North Glengarry, and the City of Cornwall will align to the new transportation and bell times in 2021-22. South Dundas students who attend schools in the Cornwall area will see no change in 2020-21.
Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario general manager Janet Murray said that route planning is still in progress, but that the bell time changes will not necessarily mean longer bus rides for students.
“Due to routing changes, some students may be on the bus slightly longer than in previous years, while others will experience a reduced ride time,” she said. “STEO strives to keep ride times reasonable for its student passengers, wherever logistics allow.”
While planning is still underway, Murray did not rule out the possibility of MPS and SMSC students sharing a single bus with drop-off and pickups at each school. “As routes continue to be refined, this may be the case,” she said.
“These changes come as a surprise to members of the IPS parent council. The lack of consultation or communication from STEO is discouraging,” said council chair Julianne Staebler. “We are very concerned about the impact on our families and their child care arrangements.”
Schools in Lanark County and northwestern Leeds County were the first to change bell and transportation times. Those changes began in September 2019.
Murray said that "foundational routing should be largely completed by end of March 2020. Routing refinement will continue right through to September start-up, as new and updated student information continues to be received here at STEO."
Regardless, route and bell time changes will take effect at the beginning of the next school year, in September 2020.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader