Bus fees doubling for some Chinook’s Edge students

More than 20 per cent of Chinook’s Edge students who ride the bus to school will be hit with bigger busing fees come September.

More than 20 per cent of Chinook’s Edge students who ride the bus to school will be hit with bigger busing fees come September.

The rural school division says the new provincial budget is largely to blame.

Students living further than 2.4 km from school — about 3,600 students — will continue to ride for free.

But Grade 6 to 12 students who live any closer, most of them residing in towns, will see their annual fee more than double to $300 from $130. Fees per family will be capped at $600 for those with more than two children riding the bus.

Kindergarten to Grade 5 students will pay $20 more when their fee increases to $150 from $130.

School district superintendent Kurt Sacher said space on buses may also be limited for the 1,350 bus students who live less than 2.4 km from school as the division looks at managing limited resources.

“The mandate is to serve those students beyond 2.4 km from a school. That’s what we’re funded for,” Sacher said on Thursday.

Parents are encouraged to talk to transportation department to arrange busing sooner rather than later, he said.

Chinook’s Edge school board decided it had to reduce some of the subsidizing of in-town busing and passed a motion on Wednesday. Fees were increased, but will still be comparable to other jurisdictions. A letter has been sent to parents.

The provincial budget announced two weeks ago forces schools to reduce their non-teaching costs, which includes transportation, by three per cent.

Midway through 2013, the province also eliminated its fuel subsidy to jurisdictions that helped subsidize busing costs. Chinook’s Edge lost $500,000.

Sacher said transportation has been a challenge without the fuel subsidy. The division is facing a $400,000 deficit in regards to its $5.9 million transportation budget.

“Our buses go three million km in a year when you add up all the travel time,” Sacher said.

“Geographically we are spread out quite a bit if you compare us to other school divisions. There’s over 100 buses going every day in our school division in different locations.”

He said as a rural school division, the board was adamant that students living further than 2.4 km not be charged a fee.

Minimizing bus duplication by working with neighbouring jurisdictions on busing strategies is also underway. Costs may also be reduced if more students walk to school rather than pay higher fees, he said.

The board doesn’t want to pull money out of the classroom, out of that instruction block, to subsidize a transportation deficit, Sacher said.

It’s hoped the changes will eliminate $150,000 to $200,000 of that deficit, he said.

Chinook’s Edge School Division operates a $124-million budget and has a student population of 11,000.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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