Andrew Gradish, representing a group of parents and guardians of children living in the area of Young Street, made a simple request to Tillsonburg Town Council on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
They want a safe bus stop for their children, and they want to stop the runaround.
“Our children all attend Maple Lane (Public School),” said Gradish, addressing council. “It's become very evident over the last year, we've had quite a few incidents – more than half a dozen now – where we've had traffic passing on Hwy 19 around the school bus. In one of the incidents, one of the guardians was almost hit. We've also had other close calls. Fortunately nobody's been injured yet. Hopefully you can help us out.”
The bus stop is actually just north of Young Street on Vienna Road, said Gradish, with a lot of turning traffic coming off Townline Road with its factories.
“Unfortunately they're standing on a highway that does not provide them with safety from traffic. Approximately 8:30 every morning we have nine children, Kindergarten to Grade 6, walking down Young Street. No sidewalks, out to a highway... and they're standing at the side of the road with no sidewalks and no barrier. No signage provided for local traffic to let them know there's a school loading zone there.
“We've tried to reason with the school. It seems kind of like a pass-the-buck process. The school tells us to contact the school bus company. The school bus company tells us to contact the school board. And the school board starts everything back over again.
“If they won't provide us with the simple solution, maybe the town can provide a safe spot for our children to get on and off the bus.”
The current spot where they load and unload is in front of a private residence, he noted, not belonging to any of the children's parents.
“In the winter time, with no sidewalks, the children are basically walking down the centre of Young Street. To try to make it safer for them, we try to drive them to the end of the street. Then there's an issue with blocking traffic at the intersection with Hwy 19. The one lady has made it very clear she does not want us in her driveway – she's trying to run a business.”
Gradish felt there was a simple solution, but no one has been willing to step up and help the parents.
“I paced this off... and from Hwy 19 to the cul de sac on Young Street, it's 0.4 km. They don't want to 'add' just a little over a kilometre to their route each day. I understand there are costs involved with that, and I don't know how much, but I think for our children's safety, it's a very, very small amount of money to have to deal with.”
The school bus for the Catholic school, he said, comes down Young Street to pick up two children.
“I don't understand the double standard. All we're really looking for is a safe area for our kids to get on the bus.”
Councillor Chris Rosehart asked if there was a crossing guard at the location.
“There used to be prior to the church that was built at the corner (of Townline and Vienna Road/Hwy 19), an actual bus stop with a turnaround corner. When the stop was taken away, they used to ride the Catholic school bus, then that was taken away.”
Deputy Mayor Mark Renaud noted the crossing guards, in previous budgets, had been paid for by the town, and CAO David Calder agreed.
Councillor Mel Getty recommended a letter be sent to the Student Transportation Services, independent of the school board, encouraging them to take care of the issue, to make it safe.
“I would really, really feel terrible if something happened to one of our kids – and then they did what you've been asking for all along.”
“We're not looking for five seperate stops,” Gradish clarified. “We want a safe, central location where they can all gather.”