All students with Chinook’s Edge School Division will soon have to pay fees to ride the school bus.
Students who live more than 2.4 kilometres from school currently don’t pay fees, but will be charged $200 per year starting in September.
Students who live less than 2.4 kilometres from school will see fees rise to about $500 from $300.
Superintendent Kurt Sacher said the jurisdiction’s $7.2-million transportation budget is facing a $1.2-million deficit and school board trustees had to make a decision.
“Certainly, they understand for some families it’s a hardship. They didn’t go into this decision lightly,” Sacher said.
Fees can be paid through installments in September and February. Families will only pay 50 per cent of the fee for their third or more child.
He said the board was not prepared to take the money from the classroom. A significant number of students were already riding the bus for more than an hour one way, so adjusting routes was not the answer.
Chinook’s Edge has been dealing with a transportation deficit for several years and the provincial budget is unlikely to include more funding, he said.
“Every indication is that budgets are going to continue to be tight. This has been ongoing for 10 years with different governments,” Sacher said.
Chinook’s edge has 123 school bus routes with about 5,000 riders.
Superintendent Jayson Lovell at Wolf Creek Public Schools said his division is reviewing all its fees, and information will be presented to the school board in March.
“The board doesn’t want to make any decisions until they see the budget,” Lovell said.
Wolf Creek buses about 3,900 students on 78 routes with a $4.4-million transportation budget. As of September, students attending a school outside their attendance area pay a $100 fee and there is no fee for students living more than 2.4 kilometres from school.
“Overall, our system is running quite efficiently and we haven’t had major deficits in transportation,” Lovell said.
Red Deer Public Schools currently does not charge school bus fees unless students attend a school of choice, rather than their nearby school.