The Chapelton school bus has been axed after Aberdeenshire councillors ditched an 11th-hour bid to save it.
A meeting on Thursday heard that the loss of the bus would be devastating to families – but the get-out clause was rejected.
Pupils as young as four now face a “dangerous” 45-minute walk from Chapelton to Newtonhill.
Or, there are fears that parents opting to drive them instead will cause congestion in the Mearns village.
Fuming parents have said they’ll have no choice but to cause traffic jams, as they raised concerns about the “very unsafe route” children now face.
Pupils from the area have been bussed to nearby Newtonhill Primary School as they wait patiently for a new school in Chapelton to be completed by 2026.
Chapelton pupils will be forced to walk after the removal of school bus
The bus was introduced in 2018/19 but came under threat last year.
A risk assessment was made in June 2022, and a letter was sent to parents informing them of the safe walking route that had now been identified.
With that in mind, the bus would be withdrawn.
Parents raised concerns and the Chapelton school bus had its first stay of execution.
In May 2023 a further inspection of the walking route found that there was a safe road, and it was indicated to parents that the bus would be removed for a second time.
Long and winding road for Chapelton bus saga
But after what was described as “chaos” when schools met after the summer holidays a petition was sent to the council and the bus was reinstated again.
An online petition gathered more than 430 signatures.
The bus came back into use on September 4, allowing time for councillors to consider their earlier decision.
In a new report, Laurence Findlay, the authority’s director of education and children’s services, again stated the case for scrapping the service.
Running bus between Chapelton and Newtonhill ‘would set bad precedent’
He said: “Council policy does not provide for the provision of dedicated school transport for primary pupils who reside within two miles of their zoned school, where there is a safe walk route.
“For those pupils who do not qualify for school transport, the responsibility for their attendance at school rests solely with their parent/carer.”
He said if the Chapelton school bus was approved then “a precedent would be set”, and it would be “difficult to justify not considering other similar requests”.
Councillors then voted to axe the bus.
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Where does this leave parents?
Elected members were told parents could instate their own bus, but it would likely cost in excess of £5.10 a day to take pupils to school.
North Kincardine representative councillor Catherine Victor said she was “sorry” she was not able to save the bus.
In a post on Facebook, she said: “I am very disappointed to have to report that we have lost the debate to retain the Chapelton school bus.
“I am so sorry that I have let you down on this issue. Please take care on the road when walking your children to Newtonhill School.”
She continued: “I will keep fighting for the new Chapelton school to be built at the earliest possible date.”
What do parents think?
In response to the post, parents spoke about their concerns about children walking to school.
Melanie Torrance wrote: “Awful news for those of us who live on St Michael’s Road.”
Mum Iona Spence said: “So there is no way I will be walking this very unsafe route with my four-year-old.
“I will be driving, causing more traffic on the roads at Newtonhill school and more pollution.
“So very disappointed that the local children have had this provision taken away!”
Ruth Cameron commented: “[I] will have to drive my son to school, and very much hope that the decision considered the very serious congestion which will happen now.”