Changes to school busing which will likely affect all riders are in neutral.
The Vernon School District will review adjustments to the transportation policy at its Jan. 20 meeting. Families can send their feedback to be considered prior to the meeting.
If approved, the new plans will roll out in the 2021/22 school year.
“Proposed changes will likely affect all registered riders,” secretary treasurer Sterling Olson said.
The changes include:
- riders needing to be registered and have transportation fees paid prior to June 30 in order to be eligible to ride the following year
- A transportation fee may be charged for each route assigned
- Students enrolled in schools outside their catchment area school are not provided transportation as eligible riders (unless identified). They may access buses as courtesy riders
- Eligible riders include Montessori, French immersion, academy of inquiry and adventure Okanagan at Clarence Fulton and the forestry program at Charles Bloom
- User fees established by May of each year
The school district initiated changes several years ago which resulted in reductions over the years impacting some.
“The last of these changes identified was to eliminate bus routes/runs not required as per policy and regulation which would affect many students,” Olson’s report reads.
The largest change would be for Beairsto students, who are currently considered courtesy riders, but would be considered eligible.
The current registration fee, which is $25, could also change.
“The board may choose to increase the fee you pay to offset the cost of changes to the transportation services for programs of choice like French immersion.”
The average cost per student is approximately $900 per year for the school district to provide transporation. The board allocates approximately $2 million in operating funds towards transportation and collects approximately $160,000 from rider fees.
The news costs with these changes still have to be determined, but Olson said it’s likely the cost per student will be greater as students will be picked up from across the district to get to a program of choice, opposed to just within a defined catchment area.
If increased operating funds are used to cover the added expense, that would take away from other programs and services.
On top of the registration fee, courtesy riders are charged an additional $175.
“If, for example, the costs of these increased services levels were $500,000, this would require a rider fee of $300 per student, including the registration fee,” Olson said.
While that number seems steep for Vernon parents, it is in line with what Kelowna charges, according to Olson’s report.
Courtesy riders are those who live within 2.4 kilometres of their school (as it is expected that they can walk or ride their bike to school). Bus seats are reserved first for eligible riders and second for courtesy riders based on youngest children first and furthest home-to-school distance.