SD6 school bussing issue persists
By Michelle Forbes
Rocky Mountain School District Board’s (School District No. 6) planned bussing cuts in Kimberley by changing Lindsay Park, Marysville, and McKim to K-7 schools. After a huge uproar from parents, the board relented, changing boundaries and students eligible for bussing.
While the board claims there are still the same number of bus routes, it admits that some “legs” of the routes have been cancelled across the district, affecting families in Kimberley, Golden, and Invermere.
Parents responded with concerned letters and petitions, but the School Board did not relent. However, at a meeting in September, the School Board first looked at a request from Golden to review and revise Policy 3600, which governs school bussing policies.
On October 10, the School Board met at Selkirk Secondary School in Kimberley for the first reading of the new version of policy 3600. The two major changes were to the differential rate and changing the rate of compensation to families not eligible for bussing from 26 cents/km to 40 cents/km.
The differential rate dictates whether it is more financially viable to bus a child to school or pay the family compensation to arrange transportation. Previously, if there were more than a 20% difference in cost, the family would be compensated. With the proposed change, students are eligible for bussing if the cost difference is less than 30%. The board stated this change would make bussing more accessible to rural families. Board member Mac Campbell stated that these changes would also be likely to affect those living in Kimberley’s Ski Hill area.
These changes will not go into effect immediately. Although a second reading was motioned, the motion was defeated. The subcommittee will begin work on the new proposed areas of bussing, based on the suggestions in the proposed changes to Policy 3600, but the change must still go through a second and third reading, which could happen as early as November, or as late as December (or longer if further revisions are required).
Parents have grumbled about half empty school busses, and inability to receive satisfactory responses to questions. Such as, if there are the same number of busses and routes, why are there less spaces for students? Are there more or fewer riders this year than last year? What is the cost difference?
The board stated that the total student increase from 2016/2017 school year to the 2017/2018 school year in Kimberley was only 34.6 full time students (where each high school student with anything less than a full course load is counted as a fraction of a full time student.) In a communication with Kimberley parent Danette Polzin, the School Board claimed the changes were not about costs. It was about implementing policies that have always existed.
The School Board affirmed that the entire amount of $369,399 received from the provincial government for Rocky Mountain School District allocated for transportation will be used for student transportation. If this amount is not sufficient, some parents are willing to pay to have bussing available to their children, but B.C. does not allow school districts to charge for bus services. And transportation or compensation is only required for children who live more than the 4.1 km (of roads walked, according to the School Board, not as the crow flies, as was previously understood) from the school.
Although the School Board meets once a month, the Kimberley Zone Trustees only meet when there is an issue, and there are no plans for them to meet in the near future. If parents disagree with this assessment, they can contact their school trustees and ask about this policy, and see if the zone trustees would agree to meet with them to answer further questions.
In the meantime, parents will have to continue to carpool, request courtesy rides, or pray for safety as their children walk home from school unaccompanied, while the School Board subcommittees study the options to move forward in the coming months.
If you would like to contact someone from the board to inquire further, click here.
For more information about Rocky Mountain School District No. 6, click here.
For board meeting agendas, minutes, members, etc., click here.
Lead image: SD6 Superintendent Paul Carriere and the School Board at meeting in Kimberley. Photo by Michelle Forbes