School bus services cut for smaller regional communities

By Greg Higgins
May 31, 2017 - 5:00pm Updated: June 1, 2017 - 8:28am
Students who take the bus to school within communities of under 5,000 people will have to find new means of transportation as the province will no longer fund the service.
Students who take the bus to school within communities of under 5,000 people will have to find new means of transportation as the province will no longer fund the service. file photo/battlefordsNOW staff

Parents whose children take a school bus in smaller communities will have to figure out a new way to get their kids to school next year as the Ministry of Education has cut funding for the service in municipalities with populations under 5,000.

School bus service cuts are being reported all over Saskatchewan due to the cut in funding from the province. Busses will no longer run within Kerrobert, Unity, Wilkie, Spiritwood and Battleford.

According to Living Sky School Division board chair, Ronna Pethick, their hands are tied.

“We already have to deal with a $6 million cut but this is on top of that. We aren’t saving any money by doing this. This is a policy change,” Pethick said. “The province is simply telling us they will no longer fund bus service for any communities under 5,000 people.”

According to Pethick, it costs $180,000 per year for the cost of bus service just in the Town of Battleford, or $4,500 per week.

According to Pethick, the province didn’t consult with the school divisions or parents before making the decision. Being a parent herself, Pethick understands this news will cause some waves.

“We are parents and we understand the angst this is causing to some families,” Pethick said. “The fact remains that we don’t have a choice. We are already dealing with the $6 million in cuts we have to make and there are people losing their jobs. Our hands are tied.”

Since there is no high school in the Town of Battleford, there will still be bus services provided for those students who attend those schools. Students who live in rural areas will also still be provided with bus services to get to school in urban communities.

Being a bigger city, North Battleford won’t be affected to the same degree, but changes are still coming. The Ministry of Education has increased the distance a student lives from the school to be eligible for service. The previous distance was 750 metres, which has now been increased to 1 kilometre from the school. The distance is based “as the crow flies” which is a direct line from the home to the school geographically.

Students attending schools outside of their zones will not receive the service.

"If parents want to get together and present a plan to the board, we would be more than willing to listen to it, but as it stands right now, there are no meetings planned to meet with parents to discuss additional options," said Pethick.

The changes take affect as of September 2017.

A reponse from the Ministry of Education was not received by time of publication.

 

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