School’s first bus is ‘history in the making’

Bus driver Mark with St. Finlough's PS students Padraig, Liam, Tela and Amelia as they get on the school bus.  (0209JB60)
Bus driver Mark with St. Finlough's PS students Padraig, Liam, Tela and Amelia as they get on the school bus. (0209JB60)

Most children think nothing of getting the bus to school these days, but for pupils of St. Finlough’s near Limavady it’s a completely new experience.

The primary school at Sistrakeel in Glack near Ballykelly opened in 1975 but its pupils have never had a “school bus”.

Last Thursday, however, as the school opened for the new term, that changed and, according to Principal Mary O’Neill, history was made.

A total of 22 students use the bus which picks up pupils from the Barnault Road, New Line Road to the Spallan Road and the village of Ballykelly. Mrs. O’Neill said having the bus is “brilliant for children, parents and staff’.

“The bus was commissioned by the Parent’s Association and is run by the North Coast Community Transport, which provides a transport network for the rural dwellers of the Roe Valley area,” said Mrs. O’Neill.

“It is one of the biggest advances for the school and it means children have a safe and secure way of getting to school.”

Mrs. O’Neill said the move is “historic”.

“It removes that barrier for parents who perhaps wanted to send their children to the school, but had transport issues.

“Now those issues are gone. In the past we had parents who wanted to send their children to the school, but couldn’t because of access issues,” she said.

“The children are full of the joys of spring getting on and off the bus. They are so excited about it, as we are, because it shows we are a growing school.”

Ballykelly resident, Diane Holland has two daughters who attend St. Finlough’s.

The fact she doesn’t have to worry about traffic in the morning is a major relief.

“Traffic wise in the morning, it’s great having the bus.

“It means I don’t have to leave the house and that’s a relief, especially in the bad winter mornings and you’re worrying about the weather,” she said.

“It’s a safe wee bus and the children are so excited to get on it.

“The girls asked on Friday what time would they be getting the bus on Saturday.

“I told them they’d have to wait to Monday! It’s a great opportunity for the school and to be part of history.”

Seamus and Nicole Carten, who have two children at the school, said: “This new service will prove very beneficial to the school, parents and ultimately the school children of St Finlough’s PS, establishing a safe, reliable mode of transport.

“The service will enable the children to meet up with school friends and chat to each other on the way to school.

“It will also give children a little bit more responsibility and allows them to learn to be more independent whilst also enhance parental freedom slightly. As a parent one can also acknowledge that using a school bus service benefits the environment - it reduces the numbers of cars on the road ( reducing carbon footprint ) and can thus improve travel for other commuters.”

For information, call North Coast Community Transport 02877762552.