On Friday, I received this two page letter in the mail from John McLaughlin, District 15 Superintendent. (Complete transcript of the letter appears below the images of the two pages).
The letter is in response to our October 20, 2009 letter (click here to read letter) in which we asked a serious of very tough questions about the Survey conducted by the Department that led to a new "Standards" document which was distributed in a letter sent out to all parents in early October. The Standards document is ostensibly, supposed to alleviate parents' fears about winter travel and the use of the Multifunctional Activity Vehicles by BHS.
As it so happens, the day we wrote the letter, we had just found out that the new Bathurst High School Multifunctional Activity Vehicles did not have winter tires on the front! (Click here to read October 22 story in the Telegraph Journal and our own posting on the subject that we titled Unbelieveable!! )
The letter is telling because in it Mr. McLaughlin reveals that the Department of Education believes that they have the correct tires on the 21 passenger Bathurst High School multifunctional activity vehicle. They believe that they can put combination of tires (ribbed tires on the front and traction tires on the rear). This 21 passenger is not a full size bus. The tire size is LT 225/75/16 which have the availabilty for winter tires on all axels. As of now the front tires are LTX 225/75/R16 M/S with NO snowflake or mountain pictograph. LT stands for Light Truck, X for Michelin tire, M/S for all season. The rear 4 tires has LT 225/75/R16 Nokia Hakkapelitta with snowflake and mountain pictograph which indicates a winter tire designed to retain traction at low temperatures. For "buses" in Policy 513 are for tire size 11/22.5 that are used on yellow school buses and full size MFAV with the same tire size. They are WRONG and in complete contradiction to everything we have been told by the leading Canadian experts on winter tire safety in Canada.
The FACT is that these 21 passenger Multifunction Activity Vehicles are not buses like Yellow School Buses or the larger full size 32 seater MFAV which do use ribbed tires in the front and traction tires on the rear that are designed for winter driving conditions and are not a winter tire. The 21 passenger MFVAs require winter tires all round (four in back and two in front).
Vehicles Are Unsafe With All Seasons in Front, Winter Tires in Back
All the experts we have spoken to across Canada tell us that these are the wrong tires for 21 passenger Multifunction Activity Vehicles and that they have actually been made "UNSAFE" by putting all seasons in the front and winter tires in the back. Who is the Department looking to for its advice on winter tires on these Multifunction vehicles?
This is what Mr. McLaughlin said about the winter tires:
"With regard to the tires which have been installed on the 21-passenger Bathurst High School multifunctional activity vehiciles, I assure you the standard articulated in Policy 513 has been met, and this has been done under the direction of the Department of Transportation. Specifically, the policy states that: "For buses, winter tire means a combination of tires that are specifcially designed for winter driving conditions (i.e. ribbed front tires and traction tires on the rear)." In accordance with Policy 513, this has been completed by November 1. All decisions about vehicle maintenance are made by the Department of Transportation as the vehicles themselves are owned by the Province of New Brunswick."
Education School District 15
October 28, 2009
Mrs. Isabelle Hains
204 Lakeside Aveneue
Dear Mrs. Hains,
I am in receipt of your email of October 20, 2009 and wish to respond to your questions and concerns as follows:
School District 15 is in compliance with Department of Education Policies 512 and 513. The transportation checklists, standards for cancellation of extracurricular travel, and our ongoing audits of school trips are designed to ensure the highest standards (as articulated in the new provincial policies) are being met.
With respect to the winter cancellation standards themselves, I wish to point out that these are mandatory practices in all of our schools, and they clearly articulate the various weather conditions whereby extracurricular travel must be cancelled and when teams and other groups already in transit must remain overnight.
With regards to the tires which have been installed on the 21-passenger Bathurst High School multifunctional activity vehicle, I assure you the standard articulated in Policy 513 has been met, and this has been done under the direction of the Department of Transportation. Specifically, the policy states that “For buses, winter tires means a combination of tires that are specifically designed for winter driving conditions (i.e ribbed front tires and traction tires on the rear).” In accordance with Policy 513, this has been completed by November 1. All decisions about vehicle maintenance are being made by the Department of Transportation as the vehicles themselves are owned by the Province of New Brunswick.
With regards to our recent consultation process, I offer the following details:
As superintendent I took the lead on this project as I wanted to ensure our cancellation standards are well informed
I arranged consultation sessions with various groups including
The parents of the students whose lives were lot in the tragedy of January 12, 2008
Pupil transportation official
The general parent population through an informal mass survey
informal mass survey (see attached), approximately 3600 forms were sent home with our students, and 1162 were returned to us. The intent of the survey was to gauge the general comfort levels that parents have with various winter travel conditions. The school district makes no claims of statistical accuracy, as it was not designed to establish parental opinion within any particular margin of error. In interpreting the results, the most appropriate approach was to look for general trends, and these centered around concerns about winter travel in severe weather conditions, winter travel in general, student safety as the highest priority in decision making, parental rights to decide whether children will travel, access to accurate meteorological information and road reports, overnight contingencies, quality vehicle maintenance, driver qualifications and training, and the importance of maintaining a strong extracurricular program.
The information gleaned from the entire consultation process informed decisions about the new winter standards.
The new standards for cancellation of extracurricular activities which were sent to you are unique to School District 15. I have shared them with the Department of Education, but I have no knowledge of the standards that are in place in other school districts.
Your other questions and concerns relating to the recommendations from the coroner’s inquest are outside of my jurisdiction and are best addressed by representatives of the Department of Education and the Department of Public Safety.
Hon. Shawn Graham, Premier
Hon. Roland Hache, Minister of Education
Hon. Brian Kenny, Minister of State for Seniors
Hon. John Foran, Minister of Public Safety
Yvon Godin, MP, Acadie-Bathurst