The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district sent out a survey this past week, seeking interest from parents in paying for private school bus service.
The district, in order to meet provincially mandated administrative savings of $1.35 million, decided last year to eliminate school bus service, starting this September.
On Tuesday, a day before trustees were to approve the preliminary budget for 2016-17, the district alerted parents to an offer by transportation provider First Student Canada to offer school bus service, for a fee.
That fee is $150, per student, per month.
For a family with two children requiring transportation, that amounts to almost $3,000 a year.
That’s not much of an option.
Given the school district won’t be offering such a service, and that TransLink won’t create new rural routes – especially since last year’s referendum was defeated – parents whose children require a ride to school have few options.
Some have said they live too far away for their children to walk or ride bikes. Cabs are too expensive and there are no neighbours or family members to help.
A few have said they would have quit work or move to take their kids to school if no bus service is provided.
Others have said eliminating school buses is bad for the environment, not to mention a safety risk.
Parents are planning a rally in support of keeping school buses on Friday.
School bus service catered to about 370 of the 15,000 students in the district last year, and cost about $650,000 – or $1,750 per student.
That is similar to the private option.
Trustees have little choice. They cut $8 million and 70 positions in their two previous budgets.
If not school buses, what should trustees cut next?
If the district, as suggested by parents, could sell land to pay for buses, what would happen when that money runs out?
More would have to come from the province, or parents.
It has to come from somewhere.
Or something has to go.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News