Public meeting hears of school transport issues in Ballyforan

A public meeting on Monday night heard how students in the Ballyforan area have been left with no way of getting to school due to a lack of capacity on the school bus service.

The growing school transport crisis follows July’s announcement by Minister for Education Norma Foley that students availing of the School Transport Scheme would not be charged fees for the current academic year.

Local public representatives including Independent TDs Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice and Senator Aisling Dolan met with concerned parents in Ballyforan on Monday night to discuss how the school transport crisis was affecting local students attending schools in Athlone and Ballygar.

Independent councillor Emer Kelly, who chaired Monday night’s meeting, said: “There are children who are eligible and who are in the catchment area for schools who have not received bus tickets and it’s a major issue. We’ve children now who don’t know how they’re going to get to school. Their parents are working in different areas which aren’t in the catchment areas for schools and they just don’t know how they’re going to get their kids to school.

“Coming out of this meeting this evening, all of us – local TDs and councillors and the parents – have agreed to come together, write a letter and get the support of everyone in the community. Regardless of politics or otherwise, we are all coming together to fight for this service”.

Cllr. Kelly said that while she welcomed the July announcement, a lack of planning has resulted in some students missing out.

“While I welcomed the announcement because the free service is needed, there was no forward thinking or forward planning when it was announced and it’s resulted in the crisis that there is now. Children are now back at school and this needs to be solved quickly. We need solutions,” she said.

Following the meeting it was agreed that letters would be sent to service providers in the area outlining the need for increased capacity on the Athlone and Ballygar routes.