With students returning to school this week, Bowen’s youth are facing a pinch point most B.C. teenagers don’t need to worry about: the ferry commute.
Most of the island’s teenagers get on the 7:30 a.m. ferry, along with a hundred or so other commuters, and then take the bus to Rockridge or West Vancouver Secondary School.
BC Ferries has issued a notice asking for vehicle passengers on that run to stay inside their vehicles on the 7:30 a.m. run so as to allow social distancing space for the foot passengers.
Before BC Ferries came out with its plan for the expected crowds, the Undercurrent talked with some Bowen parents concerned with their kids commuting to school on the ferry during a pandemic. Many concerns tied into broader struggles with the back to school plan.
Keona Hammond has been delaying the decision of whether or not to send her son, who is starting grade nine, to school.
“They are supposed to be in these cohorts in school of 120 kids, which is already a lot of kids, then the Bowen kids get added to that,” she said.
Hammond’s son wants to return to school and says he’ll stand outside the entire time while on the ferry.
“That’s the hard part,” she said. “In the end…the whole family has to feel okay about it. So I keep trying to see if we can reach a consensus.”
“I think we can all sort of agree that maybe he can go once a week and check in and get his assignments and we’ll see how that goes,” she said. “But I don’t want him on the ferry and on the bus and everything every day.”
Hilary Cassady has twin girls going into grade ten at Rockridge. Her 96-year-old parents are going to be living with her family for two parents while her father undergoes radiation treatment.
“So trying to keep my kids safe and everything more segregated, there’s going to be a real challenge,” she said.
One of Cassady’s daughters really wants to go back to school and the other is quite afraid to. “We’re just trying to figure out how we can make it work,” said Cassady.
“If they had found a way to stagger [the student ferry runs], then I’m totally fine with that,” said Cassady. “But if you’ve got… 120 kids [on the ferry], at the best of times they’re already on top of each other.”
In regular years, seats are already a hot commodity on school runs with groups of students crowded together, sharing seats and sitting on the ground. Today, orange flagging tape blocks off swaths of seats.If one daughter were to go to school, she’d have to be more segregated from the family.
“There’s no good answer to this,” reflected Cassady.
“I could potentially hold both of them back and just do it online, at least for this term…until my parents are no longer with us,” she said. “But my kids have barely been off Bowen Island since March.
“It’s a wonderful place to live but they need other social interactions.”
Wendy Cellik’s son is in grade 11 at Rockridge. She’s not comfortable with the transportation setup. “[We’ll] definitely limit the number of times he goes in and I possibly will be driving him,” she said. Driving her son in will cost time at work and money for the car.
Then there are the days where her son has only one class, “That just won’t be worth it for us [to drive in],” said Cellik.
Cellik noted that more parents driving their kids to school to keep their number of contacts smaller will also mean more of a strain on the already crowded run. “The regular Bowen commuters––I mean, do people know that we’re coming?”