Chris Evans

Safety concerns raised over new school bus stop

Two Mile family to appeal change that requires their children to cross Highway 97A to catch morning bus.

A Two Mile resident is contesting a school busing change that will require her elementary school children to either cross Highway 97A to catch the bus, or else walk to school.

Melissa Fallis has two daughters, ages six and eight, who attend Parkview Elementary.

She says last year her kids were able to catch the school bus on the frontage road just down from her Wolfe Street residence.

For the 2015/16 school year, however, Fallis says the morning bus stop will be on the other side of Highway 97A, in front of Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park. The drop-off will be on the frontage road.

The idea of her or any kids having to cross 97A mornings and afternoons has Fallis upset and concerned for their safety.

“What makes it even more unsafe is my eight-year-old has petit mal and grand mal seizures, so there’s always the risk of getting hit by a vehicle, but there’s also the risk of my little girl having a seizure in the middle of the road,” says Fallis, noting there is no marked crosswalk on 97A, or signs suggesting traffic slow down for children on the road.

Dependent upon the school bus to get her children to school, Fallis’ first course of action was to contact School District #83 operations manager Frank Marasco. She said she was told bussing isn’t a right but a privilege, and because she lives within four kilometres of the school, her kids technically do not qualify for that privilege. (School district policy states to be eligible for regular transportation to and from school, students in kindergarten to Grade 3 must live a distance of four kilometres or more from the nearest school, while students in grades four to 12 must live more than 4.8 kilometres away.)

“I basically got the vibe of shut up or we’re not even going to pick the kids up at all,” said Fallis. “That was sort of how I felt. He said the only reason they’re actually stopping at the mobile home park is it’s on the way back into town and it’s more a courtesy than anything, and I can take it up with the school district transportation committee. But I got the vibe they won’t really be doing anything because of the distance, we don’t really qualify for busing anyway.”

Marasco called Fallis’ situation unfortunate, but confirmed her kids live within the walk limits, and that the bus is only stopping as a courtesy on the way into town.

School trustee chair Bobbi Johnson said Fallis can appeal Marasco’s decision through the school district’s transportation committee. If she doesn’t like their answer, the next step would be to submit an appeal to the board of trustees.

Fallis is following through on that advice, having submitted a letter to superintendent Glenn Borthistle for the transportation committee. She also sent a letter to District of Sicamous mayor and council, asking for assistance in reinstating the morning bus stop on the frontage road, and in addressing the acceptable walking distance.

Regardless of what happens with her appeal, Fallis would like to see some safety improvements on 97A for children expected to cross to catch the bus.

“That would make me feel better, if they put up signs saying there’s kids crossing on the highway,” said Fallis. “Every time I have to stop and make a left-hand turn from where we live I almost get rear-ended, and then people go on the shoulder and pass me to go around. So if I was stopping for somebody to cross, they would definitely get hit by whoever is going around on the corner.

“Of course, in the winter, there’s all the fog, there’s black ice on the road, it’s just very unsafe.”