Strike could create safety nightmare for students who are driven to school by parents

Sherry Martell
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TRURO - Student safety is the primary focus of the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board as it rolls out a contingency plan preparing for strike action by about 600 unionized workers.
Board spokeswoman Carolyn Pierce said with the CUPE strike deadline now set for Jan. 18, board officials debriefed school principals on the details of its contingency plan Thursday afternoon and anticipates parents would be receiving information from schools today.
"I believe all of our schools have bused students and that is one of our biggest concerns," she said.
As of Jan. 18, bus drivers, custodians and trades people employed by the board can legally walk off the job, joining about 4,100 health-care support workers and 3,700 school employees working outside the Halifax region on picket lines.
Pierce said in the event of a strike parents and guardians will be required to arrange transportation to and from school until a resolution is reached.
Both groups have been offered a one per cent wage increase but are holding out for a 2.9 per cent increase for the first year of a three-year deal, to keep wages on par with that received by CUPE employees in Halifax.
Pierce said in November the board and the local CUPE team reached an agreement on local issues, however, because bargaining at the provincial lead table is at an impasse local CUPE members are in a position to strike.
She said while the board remains hopeful outstanding issues can be resolved, it is putting its contingency plan in place and is expected to release details today.
An Ecology Action Centre (EAC) official is voicing concern about the potential increase in conflicts between walking students and cars at schools around the province if school bus driver's strike.
"We'll definitely see an increase in the number of cars arriving at school during drop-off and pick-up times and this means trouble," said Janet Barlow, co-ordinator of the Active and Safe Routes to School program at the
EAC.
If formerly bused students live within two or three kilometers from school, walking could be an option, but for parents whose kids can't walk to school because it's too far, many will resort to driving them to school.
"This will create traffic congestion and a safety nightmare," said Barlow. "Lots of kids and lots of cars driven by harried parents arriving at school all at the same time is a dangerous combination."
She said reducing car traffic arriving at school can cut risk and urges parents to consider forming walking school buses (walking groups) or carpooling to ease congestion near schools.
A walking school bus guide is available online at www.saferoutesns.ca.

Organizations: CUPE, Central Regional School Board

Geographic location: Chignecto, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Keri
    March 01, 2010 - 14:40

    Of course we need to be very carefull. But here is a chance for parents to not only support the workers caught in this mess but to show their children how to work together when things get tough. Talk with other parents. Why not try a rolling car pool . Each parent in a group can take a turn to drive a car load of kids to school. Also for all those working moms and dads that would be in a real bind in the schools are closed, talk to each other, make a plan for each other to look after each others kids. This isn't the first time this has happened and probably not the last. Stick together, work as a team . I believe the saying is IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD Teach your kids right now what it means to be a commumity, a village.

  • T
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    My son goes to the French Immersion school. I drive him there everyday. I can't imagine what the traffic congestion will be like at the Truro Elementery School. It is already crazy there now. I hope to god they don't close the school because it will be a big expense on everyone whom has to pay for daycare due to the fact they are working.
    The safety of our children is the main priority in this case as well as making sure they get the proper education. I understand why they are going on strike, but then again I am a parent who pays my taxes and wants a good education for my son. I am sorry, but the well being of my son's safety and education far outweights my support for a strike.