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Sooke working mom without options after shift leaves kid without bus ride to school

Younger daughter can’t ride with sister on high school bus that passes her school
A single mom in Sooke is frustrated with the Sooke School District’s new catchment-only bus strategy. (Black Press Media file photo)

Tania Phillips has two daughters. The eldest, 16, goes to Edward Milne Community School about 15 minutes from their rural home west of town.

Her youngest, nine, starts Grade 5 this year and attends Sooke Elementary. Normally they take the bus together, since the schools are less than two kilometres apart on Sooke Road.

But this year, the Sooke School District (SD62) will not guarantee a bus spot for students outside of their catchment, which includes Phillips’ youngest.

According to the district, a year-long consultation process with parents indicated the number one complaint was too-long bus rides and wait times. That’s because until this year, students were allowed to go to any school and get a bus ride, which resulted in some very inefficient routes. The district includes Sooke, Langford, Metchosin and Colwood.

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So this year students going to catchment schools are guaranteed a spot. Those who are not won’t know if they have secured a bus seat for the year until October.

Which leaves Phillips, a single mother who works at 5 a.m. in Langford as a cake decorator, and has for several years, no way to get her youngest to school.

What’s frustrating, she says, is that both bus routes travel at least partially the same route.

“My oldest kid literally passes Sooke Elementary on her way to EMCS,” she said. “I get catchment in Langford, I understand that. But all the schools in Sooke are five minutes apart.”

Her nine-year-old is in the John Muir Elementary catchment, but that’s not an option for Phillips. Not only is she loathe to transfer her daughter for the last year of elementary school, her oldest was badly bullied at John Muir.

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“I was told by the principal at the time that, ‘We have no resources to deal with this. I recommend you transfer your daughter to another school,’ ” Phillips said. So she did.

They had a wonderful experience at Sooke Elementary, so it made sense to send her youngest there, too.

Phillips has tried to talk with the district, but so far has had no resolution. They are resolute in sticking to the catchment plan.

Phillips is left with few options. Her parents are deceased, she has no family nearby. Their neighbours are elderly and unable to help.

She can either covertly send her daughter on the bus, hoping that the driver won’t leave her nine-year-old on the side of the road, or she’ll have to miss the first several weeks of school until the district sorts out its bus routes.

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