Bussing has been a topic of contention since the Vernon School District began the discussion to remove all non-mandatory bus routes and implement a courtesy rider fee.
In an attempt to find a solution to the problem, School District 22 trustees voted unanimously in support of establishing a transportation committee at the board of education meeting Wednesday, Nov. 21.
“Obviously, we have an issue with transportation. That’s why some parents are here. We have an issue that needs to be addressed,” chairperson Robert Lee said. “The decision we make directly impacts the people sitting across from us.”
Several parents with children in Coldstream Elementary, which currently has an estimated 33 students impacted by the elimination of a bus route, were in attendance. Parents were given the opportunity to relocate their children to Kidston Elementary following changes in catchment and grandfathering legislation, however, all students chose to remain at Coldstream, the board heard.
“My understanding is the distance is as the crow flies,” said Nicole Shortt, a parent in the gallery. “That 2.4 kilometres involves a fairly steep grade down the mountain.”
Trustee Gen Acton, one of three trustees who volunteered to be on the transportation committee, said that distances are one potential aspect to consider when the committee meets.
“We know there is an imbalance between rural and urban areas. Rest assured this is something we are listening to,” Acton said.
Sterling Olson, secretary treasurer, said this request for more busing in Coldstream was brought to the previous board of education in September. However, the board of the day decided to adjourn the matter for the new board’s consideration.
“The part that has become a little bit confusing, there was an initiative put forward, there are some bus routes currently in place not required by policy,” Olson said. “What you have right now is an impact on Coldstream parents who had busses removed, and other busses that were scheduled to be removed were not.”
The newly-formed committee, comprised of trustees Acton, Lori Mindnich and Mark Olsen with stakeholders and other committee members to be determined, will have its inaugural meeting Dec. 5.
“I think this is a good way to move forward,” Mindnich said. “I think this is something we need to open up and rework.”
Olson said staff would work to build some terms of reference for the committee prior to that meeting.
“For that Dec. 5 meeting I think there is a number of things we will need to flush out,” Olson said. “Really the exercise at the end of the day will be dealing with the dollar piece, the route piece, if we’re looking at environmental issues, that will all have to be dealt with in policy.”
Trustee Jen Comazzetto voiced concern over the environmental impacts of removing bus services.
“As we make this committee we need to keep an eye on the environment and the environmental impact this is having,” Comazzetto said. “This is something we need to consider. That extra gas of our vehicles being on the road is going to contribute to the problem.”
The committee will report to the board of education at the regular meeting Dec. 19.
“We are concerned. We will address this as quickly as we can,” Lee said. “It’s a process and we will try to move that as quickly as possible.”