I am very concerned with the current Vernon School District transportation policy, which only provides bussing for students at local catchment schools who live more than 2.4 kilometres from the school.
The Vernon School District provides excellent public programs, such as French Immersion, that are only offered in one single location. If we want to make educational opportunities fair and equitable for all, they should return to offer school bussing to students of these excellent public programs.
Bussing is the safest form of transportation for students to be transported to and from schools with the lowest impact on the environment. The school district should be able to offer bus service to all SD22 school students and provide improvements, especially to large areas with families that currently do not have access to bussing, such as Middleton Mountain and the Foothills.
The decision to cut school bussing to the Foothills has impacted the whole community, adding to the congestion around BX school each morning and afternoon, with added car traffic taking students to and from the centralized French Immersion elementary and high schools.
It was a good decision, 20 years ago or more, to centralize the French Immersion school at a cost savings to the district, based on the premise that school bussing would bring in students from every area to the central school.
If the school bussing is going to be cut for French Immersion, as per current policy, will the district be spending more money in creating dual-track French Immersion schools in the Vernon suburbs at great cost?
If bussing is cut to French Immersion students, then there will be an increase in enrolments at local catchment schools, which are already oversubscribed. An increase in cost of $160,000 per portable required for each school must be considered when implementing transportation policy changes.
This has already impacted the Kindergarten enrolments for French Immersion, which still has spaces available. In previous years, there were always waitlists for over-subscribed enrolments.
As a concerned parent of two students that rely on school bussing to get to and from school every day, at the last school board meeting it was fantastic to hear trustees Olson, Williamson and Comazzetto raise the point that “any student that wants a ride, gets a ride, for a fee.”
It is unfortunate the provincial government does not provide adequate funding to cover school bussing.
Therefore the burden for some of this cost will be on families, by means of a fee for bussing. I would propose a change in fee structure, a flat fee, no higher than the yearly public transit bus pass, which is around $120 per year per student, with a hardship concession fund. This would be a fair and equitable solution to help cover the cost of transport to bring students to and from our excellent public schools, provide equal opportunities for all, increase safety for our children, and decrease traffic congestion and pollution in the community at large.