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Parents of students with special needs upset over SCDSB bus changes

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Parents of students with special needs are speaking out about a decision by the Simcoe County District School Board to change transportation options starting Monday.

Brendan Drodge and Jason Ladouceur have children with special needs without a ride to school.

"In my mind, they're looking to save a buck off the backs of disabled kids who rely on these vans to get to school," Drodge said.

"All the teachers and the support staff have been amazing. It's 100 per cent on the school board," Ladouceur said.

Now, several families are fighting to stop their kids' school transportation vans from being cancelled by the school board. The call that was made before the Christmas break comes into effect Monday.

"Very short notice. Two months into the school year. It seemed very odd for timing," Ladouceur said.

The board said the decision is part of an annual transportation review for students within walking zones of schools – 1.6 kilometres for elementary students and double that for high school students.

"The conditions for special needs transport haven't changed, so the only thing that I can think of that has changed is money," Drodge said.

Jodi Lloyd, SCDSB chairperson, said special accommodations could be made in some cases.

"If we have special education students who require specialized transportation, we will most certainly provide that for those students," Lloyd said.

While the school board acknowledges it has a $2 million transportation deficit, it said money isn't the motivator in this decision.

Lloyd said the cancellation of these bus routes is part of a review of all bus routes following its transportation policies and protocols for students within walking distance zones.

"Our goal and objective for all of our students, especially our special education students are to create independence and self-sufficiency so that when they leave the board, they can operate and be self-sufficient within their community," Lloyd said.

Drodge said for children like his 11-year-old boy Wyatt – taking the big yellow bus isn't going to work.

"It's going to mean that he can't go to school. Plain and simple," Drodge said.

Many of the families CTV News spoke to Friday said they're left with very few options going forward to get their children to school.

Meanwhile, the school board said it is not mandatory to provide transportation to all its students.

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