Kahnawake school buses return to full capacity

·3 min read

For the first time since the pandemic hit, the community’s buses will run at full capacity this school year, easing pressure on Kahnawake’s bus system.

A 50 percent capacity restriction had put a strain on drivers and wreaked havoc on scheduling, causing some students to be late for school or left waiting in the cold wondering when the bus would come to take them home.

“I’m very happy that we’re back to full capacity, and we should have a very smooth year for the community’s children,” said Spencer McComber, daily transportation manager at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK).

The change in policy will ensure more flexibility when other things go wrong. Last year saw a number of bus breakdowns, for instance, compounding woes at the town garage.

“It simply means everything is going to be easier,” said McComber of the change. “We’re going to be pretty much back to pre-pandemic conditions, with the exception of masking.”

With help from his boss, McComber put together a “request for decision,” or RFD, to ask Council to restore the normal capacity of 48 passengers on a bus. The request was granted on August 22, just in time for the school year.

However, while the MCK will supply masks to children who don’t have one, some parents are unhappy about a masking requirement being imposed on children when face coverings have become a rare sight.

Students are no longer required to wear a mask while on school buses in Quebec, but if a student outright refuses to wear a mask on a Kahnawake bus, they will be refused service.

“My son is on the autism spectrum and does not tolerate masks or anything on the face for that matter,” said Rebecca Scott, who has two children who use the bus system to get to school.

She is in favour of the return to full capacity, but she does not agree with forcing children to wear masks.

“Covid is here, and it’s here to stay,” she said. “I know I cannot prevent it, but singling these kids out is just dumb. Masks aren’t mandatory anywhere else. Why make these kids jump through hoops?”

Scott is also upset that while students and bus monitors must wear masks, drivers are exempt from the rule while they are driving, which she finds unfair.

“It’s one thing to walk around in a store with your glasses fogging up,” said MCK chief Lindsay LeBorgne in explaining the exception. “It’s another thing to be driving 40 kids on highways and have your glasses fogged up. It’s a safety issue.”

LeBorgne agrees going back to full capacity is the right decision. He noted that some extra buses that had been rented last year at considerable cost are no longer available. He also cited his belief that life has to go on at this point in the pandemic.

“I just want to point out that, you know, everywhere is almost 100 percent back to normal,” he said.

“At least we’re going to take a nod to those people that still feel uncomfortable by making the kids wear masks when they’re on the bus.”

The Kahnawake Education Center (KEC) has not yet clarified masking in local schools this year, but this information is expected to be released today, August 26, according to a KEC spokesperson.

gmbankuti@gmail.com

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door