SD6 to eliminate bussing for Kimberley students
By Michelle Forbes
As September looms, the focus shifts to going back to school. One dominant question for parents in Kimberley and area this year is: how will my child get to school?
Although parents have enjoyed the luxury of school busses in previous years, the school board stated this will change.
In May 2016, a meeting was held with school board trustees and parents on cutting down the costs of bussing. The school board had proposed changing Lyndsay Park Elementary, Marysville Elementary, and McKim Middle schools, to all be reconfigured as K-7 schools.
The backlash against this idea was substantial, and so the school board decided to redraw the boundaries to the schools instead, with McKenzie Street dividing K-3 students between Lindsay Park and Marysville elementary schools. And the school board decided to implement the four km (4.8 km Grade 4+) minimum to qualify to ride the bus. These distances are measured as the crow flies, not the actual distance a child would walk.
Kimberley children have always had the opportunity to ride the bus, but now the four-year-old just starting Kindergarten, who used to have bus privileges, will be expected to walk the highway to Marysville from Forest Crowne. Or from downtown and the Ski Hill to Lindsay Park. The school board has decided that the reasonable distance for a child to walk to and from school is an 8-9.6 km round-trip.
The Ministry of Education does not require school boards to offer transportation to students, and if a board chooses to transport students, the board also has the choice of who receives transportation. Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 (SD6) states in Policy 3600 that only students further than four km (Kindergarten-Grade 3), or 4.8 km (Grade 4-12) are eligible for transportation, where justified by a sufficient number of students. Where there are not enough students beyond the four km/4.8 km distance, parents can apply for transportation assistance, compensation of $0.26 per kilometre each way per day.
Courtesy rides will be available at the end of September based on the following criteria: handicap, illness, age of child, distance from school, safety, and available space. Surely many parents will be able to present a case for their child to have a courtesy ride based on at least one or more of these criteria if space was sufficient.
Steve Jackson, Director of Operations with the school board, has acknowledged this will be an adjustment for families in Kimberley. Several statements have been issued to the schools and parents to address questions, if not their concerns.
We tried to contact him, but he was unavailable for comment.
Some of parents’ unaddressed issues include the safety of the children walking on the side of major roads and highways, wildlife concerns, walking in the dark and snow in the winter, parents who do not have cars, or who work and have children who were previously bussed from child care or day care, and for those who do drive their children, the huge influx in cars in the morning and afternoon to pick up and drop off students, and the safety problems that presents for children walking.
A Grade 4 McKim student studying the problem also pointed out the impact this will have on the environment with all the extra cars on the roads.
Danette Polzin, a mother whose son was in childcare at the ski hill, no longer has a way to get her child to after school care.
Realizing that almost every parent she knew was facing challenges due to the school district’s decision, Polzin started a petition to the members of the school board, the superintendent of the school district, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechock, and Premier John Horgan, to show them that this change in policy is not acceptable to parents in the community, and that bussing needs to be available.
As this is being written, the petition already has 651 signatures, and counting. The number of signatures shows that this is something Kimberley parents feel very strongly about.
The distances the children would be expected to walk, according to Polzin, would take a fit adult 40-45 minutes to walk each way. Polzin posted a video of the drive showing the roads that would be taken from Forest Crowne to Marysville, and another video from the Ski Hill to Lindsay Park. Most adults would balk at walking those distances to work, especially on the busy roads and highways without any sidewalks available, and where the shoulders are covered in snow piles in the winter.
Polzin also notes that the majority of parents work outside of Kimberley, finishing at 5 p.m., when school finishes at 3 p.m. With the shortage of spaces for childcare, and the difficulty in children getting to childcare facilities from school, it will create a huge stress on all families where parents work outside of the homes, on single parent families, and on families without cars, not helped by the fact that Kimberley does not have regular bus services in town.
Polzin stresses that this means parents who are unable to be home to chauffeur, will be forced to let their children walk these distances down highways or through wildlife rich forests, because there is no alternative.
Polzin requests the reinstatement of the bus services for families in town or at least that the school board offer a feasible alternative.
However, until there is an alternative, the question remains: Who will have access to the busses? See below for a breakdown of bussing eligibility:
Cross Boundary Students – no bussing available.
Ski Hill – no bussing available. Transportation assistance offered for those further than 4.0 km/4.8 km from school.
Forest Crowne – No bussing to Marysville. Bussing for most McKim and Selkirk students. McKim and Selkirk students not eligible can apply for courtesy rides.
Marysville – Bussing to Selkirk and McKim.
Chapman Camp/Blarchmont – bussing available to Marysville, but not to McKim or Selkirk.
Outside Kimberley – Wycliffe/Wasa/Ta Ta Creek/Meadowbrook and surrounding areas bussing or transportation assistance available.
For further questions, comments, or concerns about the bussing situation, see the Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 website or contact Steve Jackson at 250-342-6966. Or for questions about provincial policy regarding this issue, contact your local MLA, Doug Clovechock at: [email protected]
To read the petition to reinstate the school busses GO HERE.