One parent households risk losing income to get kids to CBE schools: parent
The mom of three said very few, if any, employers will accomodate
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When the bell times changed—start earlier, end earlier—for the two CBE schools Nancy MacLeod’s kids attend, she told herself she’d make it work.
But when bus stop changes (new congregated community stops for alternative programs and earlier pick-up) were announced earlier this month, MacLeod, a single parent, couldn’t believe how drastic the changes were and how impossible they made getting her kids to and from the bus while having a job to provide for them.
“I felt sick to my stomach. I went right to the school to find out what the options were,” she said. “Our family has been having a difficult time lately but I was making things work. I had a plan and my kids were happy—but this changed everything.”
After talking with the administration at her kids’ schools, MacLeod said she got much of the same answer.
“They just said, ‘We don’t know what the options are,’” she said.
MacLeod said she proceeded to call her area director, Sydney Smith, who wasn’t available to speak for a full week.
The mother of three said she kept hearing from the CBE—including her trustee— that the issue was with Bill 1 and the fault of the Alberta government, but when she called the Edmonton school board she found out they weren’t having any of the same issues.
“I found out that the Edmonton school board has made it work so their kids aren’t being bussed all over the city,” she said. “They don’t have system wide half-days on Fridays and that there’s a plan in place that allows a one-parent household or a two-parent household to function much better than what the CBE is offering.”
MacLeod said she’s “heartbroken” by the situation she and many other one-parent households have been put in due to the bell time changes and bussing changes made by the CBE.
“It was made pretty clear to me when I did find a way to attend their open house sessions that they didn’t have answers and nothing was going to change,” she said.
MacLeod has since been in contact with her area director, Sydney Smith, and provided Metro with the email she got from her.
In the letter, Smith thanked MacLeod for sharing her frustrations and concerns around transportation, bell time changes and early dismissal for her children’s alternative programs (French and science) and recognized the changes were difficult for some families.
Smith Suggested that MacLeod works with other members of her school community to organize a supervised student walk to and from the bus.
“As parents are responsible for getting their children to and from school, or to and from the bus stop (according to the School Act), perhaps parents in your community would be interested in participating in some version of a ‘walking school bus’ to assist one another,” wrote Smith. “I recognize this does not solve all the issues you raised, however, I am hopeful that it may relieve some of the concerns you have regarding your children traveling safely from the bus to their home.”
MacLeod said she found the response infuriating, and said the CBE continually avoids addressing these changes to bell times and transportation that have a “major impact” on the earning power of families in a city with high unemployment.
“I foresee safety implications when many parents desperate to keep their jobs will be turning their young children into ‘latch key’ children. Bills have to be paid and food put on the table,” she said.
MacLeod said very few, if any, employers will agree to work hours that would allow parents to safely see their children to and from school.
“I discovered that firsthand while searching for a second job to make ends meet,” she said. “We are not at liberty to leave the workplace in the middle of the afternoon, and have Friday afternoons off, in order to care for our children.”
In an emailed response from the CBE, spokeswoman Megan Geyer she said they've heard from families who have questions about the transportation and bell time changes and said their transportation staff are doing their best to respond promptly to questions.
"Our priority is responding to queries related to schools on our modified calendar, as they have already begun classes," she said.
Geyer said information continues to be sent by email at a system level to parents and is also available on their website.