Local Parent Pushes for School Bus in Tumbler

Trent Ernst, Editor
The most recent bout of cold weather, got local parent Andrea Jessiman thinking about safety for kids. “These little kids are walking to and from school at -30,” says Jessiman. “I’ve picked up a child out of a snowbank at -30 one day. I’ve watched my neighbours kids walk, because their parents don’t have licences.”
Jessiman, who lives on the upper bench, says it takes at least twenty minutes for her to walk her kids to school in summer, and half an hour in winter.  “At -30, that’s a frostbite risk,” she says.
Jessiman says she knows there are hurdles. “The radius for bus pick-up down on the coast is 3 km,” says the former Richmond, BC resident. “Up here it is 8 km.” The furthest location from Tumbler Ridge Elementary is under 2 km, and under 2.5 km from Tumbler Ridge Secondary. 
She’s brought her plea to the transportation coordinator for school district 59, Keith Trail. Trail says that the chances of the school district bringing bussing to Tumbler Ridge is on the low side of no. He says this is not the first time this issue has come up for Tumbler Ridge or Chetwynd, but they have never gone anywhere, and even less likely now. “The District is dealing with a 25 percent cut to its budget, so the board is not looking to add on additional cost.”
He says if Tumbler Ridge were to get in town bussing, it would have to be applied fairly across the District, including in Dawson Creek. “Most parents drop their kids off at school. The board is not looking at putting up additional bussing. Even if a formal request is made, it will probably be turned down.”
Jessiman says she’s prepared for that eventuality. “If they refuse it because of the radius, there might be a couple other ways to do it,” she says. “We could go to the mines or Diversified and ask them to do pickup.” If that were to happen, she says they would probably not do door to door, but have specified bus stops at certain points along the main routes. “At lower temperatures, we could have a extra cold weather stops so the kids don’t have to walk so far.”
Also, says Jessiman, the busses would not need to run year round. “We could narrow bussing season to Oct to March or something. See if that would help.”
That said, Jessiman says it’s not just the cold. “I was talking to someone who said they saw a wolf over by the golf course. And how many times do we get bears right in town? It’s not just a weather issue.” She says one parent tells the story of driving downtown and looking at the path the kids always take and seeing a bear. 
Jessiman says she hopes to have a list ready for the school board by the end of February, though that might happen sooner. “I already have 56 students and 30-some odd parents on the list,” she says. “That’s good for the environment, too. With the amount of parents we have signed up, we’ve already taken 36 vehicles off the road.”
If you’re interested in seeing a school bus for Tumbler Ridge, Jessiman has created a Facebook event page where you can add your name. The easiest way to find it is to go to the Tumbler Ridge News Facebook page and look for the link. www.facebook.com/TumblerRidgeNews.