Eight-year-old Anneke and 10-year-old Luc VanderVelde shy away from traffic speeding down Silver Star Road as they attempt to walk to school on the busy, shoulderless road, now that bus fees are being implemented for ‘courtesy’ riders. (Lisa VanderVelde Photography)

Letter: Vernon school bus policy unfair

Writer upset over courtesy rider fees

Vernon School District 22 needs to change the discriminatory and expensive transport policy.

Our experience with the Vernon School District Transport department has been frustrating and disappointing. Last year we requested a pickup stop at the same spot they drop off in the afternoon, and they would not. Even though the bus runs past this spot in the morning, the nearest stop for us was 1.5 kilometres away.

Then for the 2018-19 school year, we were told we were required to pay, making us paying customers of SD22. They insist on referring to us as courtesy riders. So we paid our money and registered with them over the summer, then received no schedule from the SD22 Transport department. After two weeks of school with no bus, we contacted them and they sent our bus schedule, saying it must have slipped through the cracks.

Related: Committee looks to tackle school bus issues

This year we were assigned an acceptable afternoon drop off that we currently happily use. Unfortunately, the morning pickups we were assigned are on two separate buses three kilometres apart, each is 1.5 kilometres from the afternoon drop off. We were looking forward to our Kindergarten child having her Grade 4 sibling help her transit buses.

We asked for a review of the route, which they did, but to no avail, as we were considered courtesy riders, they would not put them on the same bus or add a stop to the route. We asked for a refund for the morning route. As this is too inconvenient for us to use we rearranged our work schedule so we can drive our children to school, adding to the chaos and pollution at the school drop off. We are yet to receive our refund, despite the fact that our children have never used the morning bus service.

The bus department needs to have a thorough review, with all students treated equally, whether they are going to French Immersion or English school, or live within 2.4 kilometres of the school. Charge all students that catch the bus, or charge none. Cater stops to all students, not just those going to English schools, or live within 2.4 kilometres to the school. Place siblings on the same bus if they are going to the same school.

The current expensive and discriminatory policy has already cost some families their French Immersion education. The car traffic has increased, increasing pollution and decreasing the safety of our children.

Also, I know of other families that use the bus and have only been charged for some siblings. Then there were other families invoiced over the summer for students that had already graduated Grade 12 the previous year.

We hope that the new SD22 board can replace the current policy and change it to a fair and efficient one that satisfies all users needs. This is just our experience, I am sure the current review by the board would benefit from people giving their feedback.

There is also a School District 22 special meeting on Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at Kalamalka Secondary School Library, please come and give the trustee’s your feedback.

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