Some kids may be left out of school for weeks because the school district doesn't have enough buses, and two families say that feels discriminatory.
Moika Labrie doesn't own a car. Her son, Wyatt, is an academic star heading into Grade 11 at Queen Elizabeth Regional High in Conception Bay South.
He might not be able to go to school this month, because his mother can't drive him and he found out he doesn't have a seat on the bus due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Wyatt lives 4.8 kilometres away from school and would have to walk along a highway. His mother didn't find out he wasn't eligible until Friday.
My son is just as eligible to have the same education as the rest of his classmates, and I don't feel he's going to get that. - Kerrilyn Ryan, parent
"I almost feel like I'm being discriminated against because we don't have a vehicle," Labrie said. "We've always lived in areas where my son was able to avail of bus services and now this last minute slap in the face we received on Friday has left everyone, not only myself, in a panic."
With students returning to the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has restricted the numbers of students who can take the bus to school.
Education Minister Tom Osborne has said busing will be available for all students by the end of September.
Physical distancing protocols dictate a bus can only take 46 students, which left many looking for other options.
Wyatt wants to go to school so badly that he has mapped out a shortcut through the woods that will shave off a few minutes both ways. His mother says that's not going to happen — there's no way she's letting him walk 10 kilometres a day mostly along the side of a busy highway.
Hard for parents working multiple jobs
She's not the only one feeling that way.
Kerrilyn Ryan has a son in Grade 9 who found himself in the same situation — cut from his usual bus route, and faced with a 7.2 km walk that goes along a highway in Conception Bay South.
Ryan works two part-time jobs in health care. She can drop him off most days, but won't be able to pick him up in the afternoons. She also found out on Friday that her son wasn't able to get the bus, leaving her scrambling to family members over the long weekend, trying to work out a schedule.
Inevitably, there will be days he cannot go to school.
"My son is just as eligible to have the same education as the rest of his classmates, and I don't feel he's going to get that," Ryan said.
Labrie's son is itching to get back to school to keep working towards academic excellence.
"We're depending on scholarships for his continued education and he's scared right now that missing the first month of school will put him at a disadvantage," Labrie said.
Both Ryan and Labrie say the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District should have done something sooner to include all children, or at least to give parents enough time to work out a backup plan.
"That should have been their goal all summer long," Ryan said. "To make sure that come September there wouldn't be children left out from their education."