Reducing walk limits for students who take the bus, changing school bell schedules and introducing bus pass fees are just some of the issues the school district is hoping parents will provide feedback on in the coming weeks.
Secretary-treasurer Len Ibbs presented a report on the district’s transportation review to school trustees Tuesday.
The report contains four options that are being considered.
The first option is an improved status quo — the honour system would remain in place for eligible riders and discretionary riders — which have previously been called courtesy riders.
In Option B, a bus pass system would be introduced that ensures eligible riders are prioritized. Discretionary riders would need to apply for any available seats.
Option C introduces fees for students who are not eligible for school bus transportation, and it includes bell schedule changes to increase efficiencies.
“We have both the improvement and efficiency of a smaller number of discretionary riders, and we also can move students a lot better because of changes to the bell schedules,” said Ibbs. “If you combine those two, it actually makes for some improvements to the system.”
In Option C, if the district combined implementing a bus pass policy and changing the bell schedule to make the bus more effective, this is where it could actually save several buses, he explained.
“This would reduce the walk limits for students,” he said.
The bus company felt that with the reduction in walk limits and changing the bus schedules, the district could save two buses — a savings of $130,000 every year, explained Ibbs.
Option D would be very similar to Option C, but all bus students would pay a fee.
“Under C and D, we’d be able to ensure that all students arrive with sufficient time to prepare for classes, and both of those represent a real significant reduction in the walk limits for elementary students,” said Ibbs. “C, I think as we looked at it as staff, I think that’s the one we really thought you would want to go to. A and B don’t really seem to give us quite as much.”
In Option C or D, there would be funds available through the district to help families who can’t afford the bus passes, noted Ibbs.
This report does not solve any issues around programs of choice such as French Immersion, but it might free up space that could be used by programs of choice students, explained Ibbs.
This information will be shared with parents and students during public meetings that are planned for Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School multi-purpose room and again Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lake Trail School multi-purpose room.
People who cannot attend the meetings can e-mail their issues and concerns to Debra Page at Debra.Page@sd71.bc.ca.
Trustee Fran Goldberg liked the fact that the options have room for change and room to manoeuvre further to public input.
“I think we need to have the discussion if the primary goal is efficiency in terms of humans or financial, and of course financial efficiency is always welcome, but I think we need to clarify what we’re talking about first in terms of being behind any of the options we consider,” she noted.
Trustee Sheila McDonnell felt this was a good start, although the district could do better in addressing the needs of families who need to use the bus.
“I think the options that have been looked at and the idea that there’s some flexibility around here is great,” she said. “I do hope we will be having conversations about our definitions of discretionary riders and how that’s working.”
She shared some of the issues some high school students face trying to get to school and told staff she would like to see something that would give students within and outside the walk limits passes that would get them on the city bus and the school bus.
Trustee Corinne McLellan expressed appreciation to staff for the hard work put into this already but noted there is probably still quite a bit of work to come.
“I look forward to hearing what the public has to say and to continue on with this great direction,” she added.