Ranchero parents say the elimination of their school bus route has limited options for their children’s education.
The “Snail” bus route, which travelled between Ranchero and Salmon Arm schools, was reviewed by School District #83 in April 2018 and discontinued in the fall of the same year. Ranchero parent Michelle Gauthier says her daughter was able to ride the bus to attend French Immersion programs offered at Bastion Elementary and Shuswap Middle School (SMS).
“Now it is my son’s turn and he has no bus.” said Gauthier, who must now arrange for her children’s transportation.“Either I’ve got to leave work or my husband has to leave work and pick her up and drive her home and then drive back to work and then go back home.”
Gauthier went to the SD83 Board of Trustees about the issue and says she was told the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) would be more helpful. So she attended a PAC meeting where she was told to contact the school district’s transportation manager and send a letter to the board.
“We are kind of getting pushed off to different areas so we’re not really sure,” Gauthier said.
In addition to providing transportation to school, Gauthier believes the bus service could help in other ways.
“I feel like other kids would use the bus to access things in the inner city, like sports programs or art programs or different things in town,” said Gauthier. “We don’t have public transportation – our kids are kind of landlocked where they’re at.”
Gauthier worked with Michaela Bugarski and other Ranchero parents to write to the school board, outlining nine concerns the parents shared. The letter addresses issues ranging from unequal opportunity for education to environmental concerns due to the estimated 16 parents having to drive their children to school.
In response, the parents received a letter from Alanna Cameron, secretary-treasurer for School District #83. She says that while Ranchero Elementary students may enrol in programs like the Late French Immersion Program at SMS, school district regulation states “parents shall be responsible for any special transportation arrangements that result from the request of the transfer.”
Ranchero parents offered to pay a fee to help cover the cost of an added bus route but Cameron says the cost of an additional run is approximately $60,000 per year, making a “fee for service” option not viable.
“If we were to consider providing transportation services for students to attend French Immersion programs at schools outside of their catchment area in order to be equitable, we would have to offer this to all students, not just the students in the Ranchero area.”
The bus route changed due to Ranchero Elementary School expanding to Grade 8, meaning students could do the full eight years there.