Poburan parents in stop scuffle with school board

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Two Marie Poburan parents say they’re frustrated with the Catholic school board’s decision to not move what they believe is a dangerous bus stop.

Sturgeon County residents Ryan Catena and Ross Lupaschuk approached the Gazette this week with concerns about a school bus stop their two families use on Old Coal Mine Road near the Greystone Manor neighbourhood just northeast of Christ Community Church. Both have young kids who started catching the bus to École Marie Poburan at the stop this year.

The stop is unmarked, unlit, and across the street from a water station frequented by heavy trucks.

Catena said he has repeatedly expressed his concerns about the site to the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools administration since September, and that board transportation officials do not wish to move the site.

“This has been really frustrating for me.”

Catena and Lupaschuk’s concerns centre on traffic at the stop, which Lupaschuk said was “comparable to being on Yellowhead Trail.”

While the speed limit around the stop is 50, the limit on the rest of Old Coal Mine Road is 80 and many drivers speed, Catena said. When the bus stops here each morning, cars line up behind it, and some pull past it. Trucks using the water station make wide U-turns on the road and come close to where kids stand at the bus stop.

“There’s no (bus stop) sign, there’s no lights on that road,” Catena said, and no sidewalk either.

“It’s unsafe to be standing on the side of a busy road.”

Safe or not?

Catena said he expressed his concerns to Sturgeon County Coun. Susan Evans, who asked administration to look into the site. County peace officer Kevin Kulbisky patrolled the site from 7:45 to 8:50 a.m. and noon to 12:30 on Sept. 26 in response to her request. Catena provided a copy of Kulbisky’s report to the Gazette.

Kulbisky reports that he saw seven school buses, eight commercial trucks, and 40 passenger vehicles pass the stop during the morning period. He noted that there were no street lights or bus-stop-ahead signs in the area, that the roadway was “not flat and visibility is a concern,” and that “water trucks turning east after obtaining water pull within inches of the bus stop in order to turn around (tracks visible).” He also issued two speeding tickets, one of which was for a vehicle doing 108 km/h.

When Catena forwarded this report and videos and pictures he had taken of the site to board administration, administrators hired a consultant to evaluate the site. GSACRD secretary treasurer Deb Schlag, who oversees transportation with the board, emailed him a summary of the consultant’s report.

The consultant examined the site on Oct. 17 at 9:30 a.m. and found that the road was straight and level with no noticeable visibility issues, Schlag wrote. He judged the site to be safe, as students did not have to cross the road to board/leave the bus and drivers could see the bus’s flashing lights, and deemed driving into the Greystone Manor subdivision unsafe, as there were construction vehicles there that could interfere with the bus when it turned.

“We feel it is a safe location and the review of the stop to date has shown that,” Schlag said in an interview.

Catena said he wanted the board to move this site off Old Coal Mine Road, noting that multiple buses already turn off it to stop in Greystone Manor.

Schlag said the timing on this bus route was very tight, and moving the stop would mean adding another bus to the route, which would not be cost-effective.

While Schlag and board trustees Serena Shaw and Joan Crockett have told Catena that he could appeal this decision to superintendent David Keohane, Catena and Lupaschuk said they felt an appeal would be pointless, as Keohane was already involved in this debate by email and supported administration’s decision.

Evans said that county administration would work with the board on any safety concerns at this site, but noted that the bigger problem here was driver behaviour.

“People who are on the road are not paying attention to school buses,” she said, adding that she regularly gets calls from residents about drivers who ignore bus warning lights.

“When you see the flashing lights, stop, because it’s kids and it’s the safety of those kids we need to be concerned about.”

Catena said that the board was gambling with children’s safety with its decision.

“We’re not asking for the sun, moon and the stars here. We’re just asking to get the bus off Coal Mine Road.”

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.