Cherryville bus cuts generate frustration

The Vernon School District is being accused of disrupting families after cancelling bus routes

The Vernon School District is being accused of disrupting families after cancelling bus routes.

With the start of classes in September, buses are no longer available to students on Sugar Lake Road in Cherryville and some parts of rural Lumby.

“I had to quit one job,” said parent Kara-Lee Zeolkowski of trying to get her four children to school or the bus stop, which is 9.4 kilometres from their home.

Zeolkowski says there was no choice but to quit shift work at a local business because of constantly needing to transport her children.

“It’s too much of a hassle to find rides for them. People have two or three kids and then with my kids, there’s not enough space in their vehicles,” she said.

“It’s stressing my six-year-old out. I’ve had to pull them out of school early (because of her work schedule).”

There are about 22 children who use the Sugar Lake Road bus route and the challenges they face include wildlife in the area, a lack of shoulders to walk on and logging trucks using the road.

The school district is providing financial assistance to parents who drive their students, but Zeolkowski insists it’s not enough.

“During the first five days of school, I went through a tank of gas, that’s $80. They will pay me $190 a month for gas but I will be spending $320.”

Concerns are also coming from Natasha Miks, who lives on Rawlings Lake Road in rural Lumby.

“I have some safety concerns about the children on our road, which is an 80-kilometre-per-hour road. It does not even have a shoulder and the students on this road are ages 11 and 8, and they are having to walk this for about two kilometres to reach the new bus stop,” she said.

“There are also sightings of bears and cubs wandering around this area which again is another huge concern for safety, not to mention the cougar sightings as well.”

Miks says much of the traffic on Rawlings Lake Road is logging trucks.

“There is no area for the children walking to the bus stop to be safe while they are passing them other than the ditch,” she said.

The school district says Cherryville’s principal and trustees have received complaints about the changes to bus routes.

“We take all parent concerns seriously,” said Joe Rogers, superintendent.

“When you reduce services, it’s difficult for any family and we’re aware of that.”

The district began enforcing a 2.4-kilometre walk limit three years ago, and the Lumby-Cherryville area is being phased in this year.

It’s expected the Regional District of North Okanagan will make a presentation to school trustees about rural busing.

“The board will make a decision about what to do,” said Rogers.