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Vernon School District bus routes cut

There will soon be a lot more kids walking to school, thanks to re-designed bus routes in the Vernon School District.

Budget constraints means a cut to several bus routes and students who are within 2.4 km of their school will now be required to walk there, rather than ride the bus, with the majority of routes in the district undergoing changes.

District superintendent Joe Rogers said the changes mean a savings of $125,000 for the district,  with the new routes to be implemented June 19.

“We want to implement the changes now to ensure that all changes are known and practised prior to September,” said Rogers. “And the other part is there could be mistakes — we’re changing thousands of kids’ routes, so we want to make sure there are no errors and if there are we can fix them.”

The changes will be implemented as of June 19, with transportation provided to the catchment area students who live more than 2.4 km from their school, although some students may be required to walk up to 2.4 km to the nearest bus stop.

Out of catchment courtesy riders are accommodated if there is space on the bus and if it works within the route schedules.

“We’ve had the drivers drive the new routes as it’s better to try practising these routes now so they will be checking both the new and old bus routes to make sure no kids are left behind,” said Rogers.

He added that Vernon has the shortest walk limit in the Okanagan, with both Salmon Arm and Penticton using 4 km walk limits.

Busing changes were implemented last fall at the Fulton family of schools which also includes Mission Hill, Okanagan Landing and Ellison elementary schools.

“We are in a budget crunch — this is the formula that we’ve always had, but we’ve had the same busing money since 2000 and we are trying to get all of our budgets somewhere near the amount that we are allocated,” said Rogers. “Making cuts is always tough — we want to keep as many professionals in the classroom as possible, so where do we make the cuts, to CEAs, to teachers?”

CUPE president Mark Olsen said the re-designed bus routes translates into five people losing their position and one losing hours from their bus run.

“I guess they have decided there are some efficiencies they can get, but it’s a lot,” he said. “The drivers will still be working but will be in a different capacity and not have specific assigned routes.”

These latest cuts to support staff have come at what has been a good week for members of CUPE, which reached a tentative provincial agreement.

“For some of our drivers, this is a secondary income, but for some it’s their main source of income so that does affect them,” said Olsen, a district bus driver.

Eligible students registered for transportation have received a route schedule with a memo confirming their new morning and afternoon bus stops. Students who are already registered to ride will automatically have their route information updated in the transportation system. They are not required to re-register unless their busing needs have changed, such as changing schools. Students changing schools or moving will need to re-register for busing by June 26, including those starting Grade 8 in the fall.

 

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