Family frustrated after months of unreliable bussing for special needs son

Ben Spicer’s school bus arrived for the first time this week on Friday morning. It came about a half hour late, and his older brother had already driven him to class.

He was later brought home in a taxi, paid for by the Calgary Board of Education.

Ben is 14-years-old and has multiple special needs, including impaired hearing. He has trouble adjusting when plans are suddenly changed.

“He thrives on routine and when his routine is disrupted, he’s totally dis-regulated,” says his mother, Dianne Spicer. She says when the bus doesn’t come he sometimes gets agitated, pacing the sidewalk in front of their Beddington home, often shouting.

There were a few disruptions before, but the problems with bussing really began in January. At one point Dianne says, they went two weeks without a bus.

“The issue is that we cannot depend on the bus showing up on time on any particular day,” says Dianne.

Southland Transportation is responsible for the bus route, which is about a 20 minute drive to Ben’s program at Riverview School near the downtown core.

Southland says it is acutely aware of the issues with bussing and is working to address them. The problem a spokesperson says, is a lack of staffing. She says the company has been trying hard to recruit more drivers and to communicate better with schools when there is going to be a disruption.

The CBE says the problem is not isolated to this one school or route, but is being experienced across the board. The CBE also blamed staffing shortages for the majority of the problems.

Bussing fees were waived by the CBE this year, but were about $600 for Ben’s transportation the last time his family paid.

They’re also fortunately his adult brother has an understanding employer and can often get away quickly to help, but he’s heard of other parents at the school who are running into trouble at work as they try to manage the unpredictable transportation.

“We have somebody available that can drive him and pick him up some days, but it’s hard, summer’s coming and we’re getting pretty busy at work,” Sean Spicer says.

Leave a Comment