We have been advised that the Department of Education is planning to release to the public revised policies regarding transportation of students and ownership of vehicles. (See proposed new policies below).
We feel that the new policies are not substantially different from what was there before. While we commend the move to phase out the 15 passenger vans in a responsible manner that does not financially cripple the schools, we seriously wonder if the new policies will actually change the way our children are transported day to day, to and from extra-curricular activities.
We want qualified drivers with Class 2 licenses driving our children to events. Teachers are paid to teach. They are not professional drivers and they should not be burdened with that responsibility. They have enough on their hands trying to educate our children. We understand that some parents have even been asked to drive the rented vans which the schools are using. That is not acceptable. We see nothing in the proposed new policies which will change that. Teachers are still going to be driving the vehicles, albeit with the proper training which is NOT equivalent in any way whatsoever to that of a professional bus driver.
We see nothing there about enforcing a bad weather policy which is something that we are very concerned about knowing what happened as recently as late December in Fredericton when two high schools in the same city took two completely different interpretations of the policy for travelling in bad weather to attend a swim meet in Miramichi. One school went in bad weather, the other waited until the storm subsided. Nobody has learned a thing from our childrens' deaths.
-- POLICIES ---
The new policies will address Superintendents' responsibilities, principals' and extra-curricular activity organizers' responsibilities, vehicle standards, driver requirements, and out of province travel, as well as ownership of the vehicles, maintenance, insurance coverage, funding and operation of student extra-curricular activity vehicles. There will be some new money, including $100,000 for a mandatory driver training for those designated by the school to transport students.
The ban on 15 passenger vans and the requirement for winter tires on all vehicles transporting students will remain. The province will actually begin buying the 15 passenger vans from schools and will use them as maintenance vehicles.