In response to concerns from parents, the Vernon School District has made some changes to its busing routes.
In an effort to save money from a cash-strapped budget, the district had recently cut several bus routes and began restricting busing to students who live more than 2.4 kilometres from their school.
But when school started up again this year, many parents expressed concern over safety issues, such as children having to cross busy highways or walking along Westside Road to get to a bus stop that is within 2.4 kilometres of their home.
At Wednesday’s district board meeting, superintendent Joe Rogers said a number of changes have been made to drop-offs and bus stops.
“We’ve made about 10 changes, including adding three to the Okanagan Indian Band, and Killarney Road South, and in town we’ve made some changes to pick-up and drop-off for Beairsto students,” he said. “Starting Tuesday, the stop will be moved from Middleton Road to Middleton Way.”
A committee will be formed to take a look at busing, to see what changes need to be made.
“We have about 3,520 riders and we lost about 300 riders when we made the changes, but we haven’t had any complaints from those who are riding the bus,” said Rogers. “The ministry tells us we are not responsible for busing, but we spend about $2 million a year on busing and that is a significant amount of money, especially considering we have not had an increase in funding from the ministry since 2001.
“So we want to make sure we are serving the needs of our kids and to make sure they are coming to school safely.”
Board chairman Bill Turanski said while the ministry was willing to approve the purchase of new buses for the district, it has not increased the funding needed to actually operate the buses.
“When I attended the PAC meetings at both Kal and Coldstream, busing was on the agenda,” he said. “We have also adjusted busing so that we are now going to be picking up students within the 2.4-kilometre limit, where it would be dangerous not to provide busing for them, so we are making some provisions for those.”
Trustees approved formation of a committee to take a look at the issue.
“When I did the numbers, I realized that when they were in school, each of my children has ridden the bus 188,000 kilometres,” said trustee Doris Squair, whose four children — now grown — all attended J.W. Inglis and Charles Bloom in Lumby.