The school district is to discuss reinstating school buses

The school district is to discuss reinstating school buses

Maple Ridge school district to offer new busing option

Parent fees would rise to $416 a year, almost double previous amount.

School board trustees will consider a scaled-down version of school bus service for Maple Ridge on Wednesday night, in the school board’s last meeting before the summer break.

If approved, the one-year pilot project will raise parent busing fees to $416 a year from $214, and there will be fewer buses on the road.

Rural parents in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district have been lobbying and hoping for an announcement that bus service will continue next year, because a funding source is now in place.

“We’re very confident they will restore bus service now,” said Pascale Shaw, a spokesperson for families lobbying for regular busing. “Of course, there’s still other things this could be spent on.”

The $632,000 in education funding the education ministry returned to the district will be ongoing – not just a one-time payment. It was announced two weeks ago as part of a $25-million, province-wide funding initiative to reverse the government’s requirement for administrative savings in 2016.

To achieve those savings, School District No. 42 had cut bus service for 370 students, saving $650,000.

MLA Doug Bing made the funding announcement at Garibaldi secondary, where there are 200 busing students.

He and MLA Marc Dalton both said they hoped the board would restore bus service.

At the time of the announcement, the MLAs acknowledged the funding was one-time, but days later the Education Ministry announced the funding would continue each year.

The board met in a budget committee of the whole session on Monday night, and the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting contains recommendations for the $632,000, which include one-time funding of $260,000 for a one-year pilot of a revised model of student transportation. It would provide transportation only for eligible students – those in kindergarten to Grade 3 who are further than four kilometers from their catchment area school and Grade 4-12 students who live further than 4.8 km from their catchment area school.

The number of buses contracted will be reduced by enforcing a July 31 application deadline for transportation services, then creating routes based on the registrations received.

The goal is to achieve bus utilization of 95 per cent of capacity or higher. Currently, most buses are two-thirds full.

The new fees are based on TransLink student fees. Low-income families can still apply for a transportation fee waiver.

School board chair Mike Murray said the report outlines options and recommendations, but it still must be passed by the board.

He said the board has had a lot of feedback from a variety of groups requesting additional funding through the budget process, and the $632,000 in restored funding allows the board to reverse some of the cuts it has made in the past.

“I would characterize the board as listening carefully to people, and making a decision that reflects all of that,” he said.

The recommendation would allocate $360,000 of the funding to “add supports for vulnerable students,” and minimize the number of secondary academic classes over 30.

Another $7,000 would be used to increase elementary clerical support.