Exposing children to noxious diesel fumes, the removal of about thirty trees, reduction of urban greenspace and issues surrounding snow buildup were the top concerns aired by stakeholders of Cataline Elementary School’s latest bus loop proposal recently.
About 20 members of the public were on hand at the school’s gymnasium the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 7 as School District 27 trustees and staff completed another step in the process of addressing what they perceive to be safety issues at the elementary school, home to more than 300 students.
Superintendent Mark Wintjes and secretary treasurer Kevin Futcher chaired the meeting, and gave a bit of the back story. Futcher explained that several schools in the district were impacted by a change in traffic flow due to the 2014 reconfiguration of city schools, Cataline being one of them.
Chaotic, overflowing parking lots and bus lanes, and a mix of vehicle and pedestrian traffic at Cataline were the focus of an ICBC report to SD27.
The first proposal brought forward last year was a controversial one, and called for the removal of about 90 trees to accommodate a new bus loop in the back of the school playground.
After much opposition, SD27 staff went back to the drawing table and this time around, the proposal would see buses redirected along 11th Avenue, turning left to an existing lane between homes, entering the playground area and turning right to come up along beside the school entrance. The proposal would still see the removal of approximately 30 trees, the school garden and an existing blacktop space where children currently play hopscotch and basketball.
No one speaking at the public meeting Tuesday night thought the district’s latest proposal was a good idea either.
“As neighbours, we are really going to be impacted,” said Sheila Gibson.
Gibson’s backyard borders the side of the school where the district is proposing to relocate the busing lane, which would see 15 buses dropping off students in the morning and nine picking up in the afternoon, snugged in between the school and a residential retaining wall. She told the board she has concerns over snow removal, and most importantly the build up of noxious diesel fumes in the confined space.
“I’m so close to the school I always end up with basketballs in my backyard. But I would much rather have basketballs in my yard, rather than idling buses.”
Speaking on behalf of the Parent Advisory Council, Jen Brown took to the microphone to tell trustees PAC was not in favour of the latest plan either, citing a reduction in greenspace at the school and bus exhaust too close to the school as the main concerns.
“Our enrolment increases, but our play area decreases,” she said.
Brown asked the district to instead consider hiring a bus/parking monitor during drop off and pick up hours at the school to regulate traffic. After the meeting, Brown added she felt the district had their own ideas and she wasn’t convinced they were being clear and transparent, or that they were listening to their solution. The PAC doesn’t believe the construction is needed, particularly after the school just underwent a particularly painful construction process last year.
Trustees on hand for the meeting said they have in no way made up their mind on the bus loop proposal for Cataline, encouraging stakeholders to take part in an online survey open to the public until Nov. 22.
They did, however, cite safety concerns with the current parking lot as Cataline as the reason for the new bus loop prososal.
The board said they could make a decision on the bus loop proposal as soon as Nov. 28 at its regularly scheduled board meeting, with construction to get underway in the summer of 2018.