The school board will be looking into its policies around transportation following parental requests for school bus policy changes.
The board directed staff to prepare a report on the issues surrounding school bus transportation in the district, including a look at costs, safety issues and the limits on the bus service.
Two parents have filed for a policy review based on safety issues and the distance limits on bus service.
Currently, bus service is only entitled to students who would have to walk more than four kilometres to school if they are in kindergarten to Grade 3 and 4.8 kilometres if they are in Grade 4 through 12.
At the end of October, 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.
After hearing of the cancellation, parents had started a petition and filed an appeal of the decision, citing safety concerns along Lakeshore Road, which has no sidewalks and narrow corners.
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. The school district has a number of these so-called courtesy riders, who can use the bus system if capacity allows.
Under the School Act, the School District is not required to provide any transportation for students. Parents have the responsibility of getting their children to and from school.
Trustee Michel Saab said the current school district transportation policy dates back to when transportation was a provincial mandate. He says this school district simply opted to keep that same policy for simplicity’s sake.
“We’ve had many requests and concerns from parents and there is also the issue of equality for parents in getting help getting their kids to and from school, so to me it makes sense to take a second look at how we provide transportation. Changes may or may not make sense, but it makes sense to gather the information and then come to the public.”
Trustee Kelly Rowe raised the issue of parents paying fees if they use the bus service, as a way to cut costs.
“We get bills for school supplies and things at the beginning of the year, why not add bus fees to that? For those parents who can’t afford it, there’s a process already in place to help with those costs. We might not get it all paid, but there’s zero dollars being collected today.”
Trustee Barry Chafe also pointed to potential liability issues.
“What’s safe to one person, might not be considered safe to another. We’ve got to think about how much liability we can accept.”
School district staff have been directed to formulate a report to be available in January, prior to the school boards budget process.