Red Deer Public, Catholic school boards hike busing fees

Free school bus rides will soon end for Red Deer elementary school students who live 1.6 to 2.4 km from their designated school.

Free school bus rides will soon end for Red Deer elementary school students who live 1.6 to 2.4 km from their designated school.

Starting in the fall, both Red Deer Public Schools and Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools will charge a $150 annual busing fee to students in kindergarten to Grade 5.

The new $150 fee will also apply to elementary students attending Red Deer Catholic schools in other communities.

Elementary students with Red Deer Public who live more than 2.4 km from their designated school will also be charged a new $75 fee.

Both jurisdictions approved new fees to supplement provincial transportation funding. They receive a $460 grant per student only for those who live 2.4 km or further from their designated school.

Red Deer Public is facing a $378,952 transportation deficit.

“It’s not just a problem that’s here in Red Deer. It’s a problem that’s everywhere in the province. We’ve been underfunded on transportation for some time now. We’re been absorbing those costs and we can’t do it anymore,” said Bev Manning, Red Deer Public board chair, on Thursday.

To address the funding shortfall, Red Deer Public will also increase the price of subsidized busing on Red Deer Transit for Grade 6 to 12 students who live more than 2.4 km from their designated school. The fee rises to $75 from $30 per year.

And more of the district’s school buses will serve more than one school to reduce expenses. That will involve adjusting class start and/or dismissal times by five to 15 minutes, depending on the school.

To reduce costs by $162,000, buses will do double shifts at Westpark Middle School, Annie L. Gaetz Elementary School, Joseph Welsh Elementary School and Ecole Barrie Wilson Elementary School.

“It’s a good, cost-effective way of saving some money. It’s a fairly commonly used practice,” Manning said.

Red Deer Public trustees approved the transportation changes at a school board meeting on Wednesday.

Manning said no complaints were brought forward at the meeting.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t some concern out there. We’re keeping our ears to the ground and we’re prepared to respond to parents should they have some concerns or questions.”

Both Red Deer Public and Catholic have transportation fee waiver programs for parents experiencing financial difficulties.

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