Amherstburg Town Councillor Rick Fryer listens during a council meeting on February 12, 2018. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

‘Safety Of Our Children’ Compromised By Bus System, Says Councillor

An Amherstburg town councillor is criticizing his fellow councillors’ priorities following a decision made in the wake of multiple weather-related school bus crashes.

During a meeting Monday night, town councillors voted against a motion introduced by Councillor Rick Fryer to ask representatives of the Windsor-Essex school bus consortium to come before them and answer tough questions on how decisions are made to cancel school bus service in the event of bad weather.

Fryer has been trying to hold the consortium accountable after a decision was made to keep buses running last Wednesday. Several school buses were involved in crashes. Two of them slid off the road and one had students in it.

There were, fortunately, no injuries but Fryer wants to know why other regions make decisions on bus cancellations earlier than Windsor-Essex. He says he will accept council’s decision not to invite the consortium to explain themselves, but he finds it hard to believe they would choose against public safety.

“I’d like to see council support each other,” says Fryer. “But in this decision, it was obvious that they didn’t feel it was important enough to have the safety of our children looked after.”

He says the uncertainty is putting students and bus drivers at risk and all he wants from the consortium is answers.

“It wouldn’t have hurt anyone for them to come to council and explain how they come across with their criteria, especially when Detroit cancelled their school buses, and eastern Ontario cancelled their school buses before the snow even fell,” says Fryer.

Under the current system, spotters and bus drivers alike are out early on bad weather days to determine the road conditions for themselves. If they believe bus service should be cancelled, they pass along the information and it is up to consortium management to make the decision.

Fryer says an earlier warning system would be ideal so parents could make other arrangements for transportation or childcare if they choose not to send their children to school.

Others on Amherstburg council said the system is no more predictable than the weather.

Councillor Joan Courtney, for one, pointed out that sometimes only part of the county is experiencing bad weather.

Fryer says he doesn’t buy that explanation, and that the answer should have been obvious where public safety is concerned.

“I think when you look at safety, there is no losing situation,” says Fryer. “If one of those kids was killed in a bus last week, would we be speaking about the same thing? That’s the question.”