Despite an appeal from parents, the School District #83 board upheld a decision to cancel a school bus route that serves high school students in Lakeshore, Raven and a portion of North Broadview.
Parents started a petition drive and filed an appeal of the decision, citing safety concerns along Lakeshore Road, which has no sidewalks and narrow corners.
The school district cut the route this year as a way to save money after it was determined that this year there is only one student living on the route who is actually outside the school district’s walk limits. For students in grade four to 12 the school district’s acceptable walking limit is 4.8 kilometres. Many of the students previously using that bus route did not actually qualify for the bus ride under the walk limits, but were allowed to use the bus in previous years as there had been sufficient capacity.
Raven parent Daphne Brown also noted that the average high school student in Raven would have to walk 4.4 kilometres to the Sullivan campus. She also takes issue with the school district’s measurement process, noting that many of the students actually attend the Jackson campus, which is beyond the 4.8 km walk limit.
“If they go to Jackson, then I think that should be the valid measurement, from their home to Jackson – not from their home to Sullivan.”
The school district argues this is because students could walk to the Sullivan campus and catch a bus to the Jackson campus from there.
Brown says she was hoping trustees would give more consideration to safety.
“It is an unsafe, inappropriate route for students, for anyone really, to be walking. We were hoping the trustees would see that not all routes are created equal.”
In a letter denying the appeal, board chair Bobbi Johnson points out that school districts in B.C. are not required to provide any transportation of students to and from school.
“The funding the Ministry of Education provides for this service has not changed since 2002. Not surprisingly, the costs for transportation are significantly more than the funding received,” states the letter, which adds, “It is a parent’s responsibility to determine how their children will safely travel to and from school.”
The letter also notes reinstating the bus for this year would negatively impact the district from a cost perspective, as all the bus routes would have to be re-evaluated.
Johnson notes the school district will review the transportation routes in the spring for September 2016. However, “it is not possible at this time to determine what effect this review will have on your situation.”
Brown says while the decision of the board is final at this time, parents have requested a change of school district policy regarding the walk limits. A policy change could, however, take months or years for the school district to complete.
Brown is also hoping for better communication from the school district when bus routes are considered for cancellation.
“I am really disappointed, both that we lost the bus and with the inefficient process of school district administration.”