Latecomers – Bus blues of Orange Hill students
WHY ARE students from the Orange Hill, St James area who attend the St Lucy Secondary and Coleridge and Parry schools arriving at school late?
Parents of some of the students say that the school bus service provided by the Transport Board for the area is “horrible”, while a resident contends that some of the students are delinquent.
In an effort to get an accurate idea of the situation, a SATURDAY SUN team yesterday morning headed to a location just a few feet away from the bus stop where the students usually assemble.
The team arrived in a quiet Orange Hill around 7:30. The first student arrived at the bus stop 25 minutes later and was soon joined by about ten others.
At 8:05, Transport Board bus BM 562, its destination sign announcing St Lucy Secondary, pulled up at the bus stop and all of the students boarded.
While the team awaited the arrival of the second school bus, an uninvited resident joined us. Making known his views but not his name, he said: “We don’t only have problems with the buses in this area. These children ain’t interested in no school. Some mornings some of them walk idly to the bus stop when the buses gone. They stand there for a little while and hide behind the houses,” he said.
Around 8:15, as our self-appointed informer continued to offer his take on things, students began to assemble again. “Wait for the rest to come out if they going to school this morning,” the man advised.
Observing an approaching male student, whose manner of dress suggested he was in his home undressing after a long day at school, he said: “And see this one that coming here, he is a DL, a daily late.” That student reached the bus stop at 8:23, just in time to catch BM 529, also showing its destination as St Lucy Secondary. One minute later, B70, with its “SCHOOL” sign, arrived and that was the final bus for the morning.
The bus stop was now deserted, but our local knowledge “expert” was still there. He suggested to the photographer: “Most of them just get in the bus quick this morning because them know you is THE NATION man. . . . Come back out here and hide in somebody gallery and see what really happen.”
The team left the area at 8:40 and headed to a nearby location to talk to concerned parent
Lucille Smith-Pauletto, whose son attends the St Lucy Secondary and takes one of the school buses. Smith-Pauletto complained that “school starts at minutes to nine and the bus comes at 8:30 or 9:00. How can they be on time for school when that drive is about a 35 minutes?. . . . And the children get penalised for the service that Government is providing for them.
“And the worst thing that happens is that those children have to take a Rock Dundo [bus] passing through Orange Hill minutes to nine as a last resort. They get off in Holetown [because that bus will be heading back to town] to take a bus to go to school. When they get to school it’s minutes to ten or after ten and they are sent back home, which happened to a nephew of mine up to a week ago.”
After listening to that parent, the team headed to the schools. The first stop was St Lucy, where at 9:45 students were still arriving. Principal Anthony Austin had little to say, but he did point out that he had contacted the Transport Board about “the school bus situation”. He stressed that “no student is sent home for being late; they receive a late slip which is kept on record”.
The SATURDAY SUN team then headed over to Coleridge and Parry, but before arriving at that school, as we travelled through Speightstown at about 10:10 we spotted students from the St Lucy Secondary School buying goodies in a nearby shop.
Coleridge and Parry’s principal Vincent Fergusson confirmed: “We are aware of [the transportation difficulties] and we know what is causing the problem. We have been in contact with the Transport Board and we are asking them to do something about it.
We actually had a teacher who trailed one of the buses and she said that it actually started to [bypass] students from Warrens, then it [bypassed] students from Redmans Village. I don’t know how the Transport Board can improve on this situation but we know who the students are from the Orange Hill area.”
A Transport Board official said that the board had not received any “complaints” about the school bus service in Orange Hill, but the matter would be investigated.
Whose fault is it?