I am writing this in response to the letter from Mr. Turanski as I do share the same concerns and opinions of Robert Lee and would like to clarify our issues with the current busing system.
Firstly, there is a lack of communication between the Vernon School District transportation department and the parents. It was first announced there were going to be changes to the busing in mid-June. However due to the strike, most parents were not even aware or were not able to respond accordingly.
Checking into my daughter’s bus route Aug. 22, she was to start walking at 7:10 a.m. to catch a bus 2.9 kilometres away. Then upon a phone call to the transportation department to inquire if this was correct, I was then told she was actually within walking distance as she lived within 2.4 kilometres from the school. It just so happened that after I won my argument that we are 2.8 kilometres from the school, it was discovered that 22 other students were in the same position.
So my child’s bus route was then changed again and I was only notified by the post on the school board website the Thursday before school officially opened again in September, which of course, leaves us with no ability to respond or make other arrangements in such a short amount of time. With both of us working parents, we have to accept the new bus route, which is an hour wait after school, and then she still only gets dropped off half-way home (so another one kilometres of walking) or walk the entire way home (three kilometres) through a field, past a creek, down a busy road with no sidewalks and across railway tracks and all the while passing piles of bear excrement. Is this really acceptable?
And back to the communication, there have been many calls to the transportation department and I can only assume that due to sheer volume of calls, I’m not being ignored and mine will eventually get answered. And I’m sorry but, “sending a simple e-mail is all that is necessary” has not got us anywhere either. And when we are given an answer, in person, it’s not a solution to our problem. It’s rather an explanation of, “Well, what do you want me to say?” or, “I will investigate it.”
Secondly, the busing costs of the Kelowna school district quoted by Mr. Turanski are correct, but let’s expand this further.
The busing charges for the Kelowna district are $112 per student annually. If you pay the first installment of $50 up front, it goes down to $100 total, which works out to $0.27 per ride. And if you have more than one student the rate can slide down to under $0.20 per ride. I know, and can appreciate, that charging anything at all will be an issue for some families but doesn’t that sound like a great deal? I just cut a cheque for $55 for school supplies for my son in elementary school and wasn’t given the option so why is busing any different?
I’m sure if most families weigh the odds, getting our children home safe is most important to them, not too mention it would reduce the stress and costs to parents of finding alternate ways to and from school. After all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states, “School buses are the safest mode of transportation to getting children back and forth to school.”
I can appreciate cutting costs just as much any anyone, but when it directly affects our children’s safety, it’s just not acceptable. In fact, many of the new bus routes just don’t make sense. You have buses driving empty past students in the morning on their way back to the board office, which by the way is a five-minute walk from Vernon Secondary School (and these are kids that were able to take the bus last year but now have to walk to school by crossing Highway 6. Granted they are high school kids, but still). Or we have buses that are not allowed to make loops or to drop kids off at a further non designated bus stop, which would avoid them having to walk that much further, all the time the bus then leaves and drives in the exact same direction – again empty.
My daughter’s bus actually drops her off 1.5 kilometres from our house at 4:10 p.m. and then literally drives past our house. I’m not looking for an exception here, just pointing out how silly some of these bus routes have become.
It is my hope that the Vernon School District transportation department can work together with parents to help rectify the problem we are all facing.