Bus cuts leave Cherryville fuming

Vernon School District eliminating bus service on Sugar Lake Road in Cherryville and in parts of rural Lumby.

The prospect of school children navigating dark rural roads for long distances has local politicians demanding action.

The Electoral Area Advisory Committee of the regional district opposes the Vernon School District eliminating bus service on Sugar Lake Road in Cherryville and in parts of rural Lumby.

“We need to show our support for the parents,” said Hank Cameron, Cherryville director. “Buses shouldn’t be cut back.”

Rural Lumby director Rick Fairbairn says the community will be negatively impacted if busing is reduced this September.

“We’re developing rural areas and this is another roadblock for rural development.”

Sugar Lake Road resident Kara-Lee Zeolkowski has one child in Charles Bloom Secondary and three children at Cherryville Elementary and the new bus stop will be 9.4 kilometres from her home.

“This means that I will have to be driving my children this distance six times a day. That is 56.4 kilometres per day of driving to get my children to their bus stop,” she said.

“This is a lot of driving in one day to bring my children to a bus.”

Zeolkowski says there are 22 children who use the Sugar Lake Road bus route.

“There are no shoulders to walk on, and especially in the winter months with snow banks, the only place to walk is on the road,” she said.

“And since we have snow from November through till March, this is a large portion of the school year children are expected to walk on the road. There are no street lights on our roads.  They will also be sharing the road with many logging trucks.”

If the bus route is reduced, Zeolkowski says she may have to home school her children.

“I do understand that cuts need to be made since budgets get cut and things are tight,” she said. “I just truly believe that with a better look at rural schools, you will see that this is not a safe choice for our children here. We don’t have the resources that are available in a bigger centre.  And we also don’t have the safe roads that you will find in areas closer.”

School district administration were unavailable but trustee Lumby area trustee Doris Squair says parents’ concerns have been taken to the transportation department.

“It will be reviewed and answers will be given. I understand rural living because I am 40 kilometres from the nearest school. I’m hoping we can find a positive resolution,” she said.

Squair admits the school district is looking for ways to reduce costs.

“Finances are tightening and the district is trying to do the best it can.”