Kootenay Lake school district busing fees explained to Creston parents

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  • Jul. 2, 2012 7:00 p.m.
Kootenay Lake school district busing fees explained to Creston parents

A decision to charge for children who bus to a school out of their designated catchment area will cost School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) parents $200 a year.

Or nothing at all, if they can convince administrators they have a good reason for sending their kids to a school outside of their neighbourhood. That message was delivered at a meeting at Prince Charles Theatre on June 28, which about 30 people attended to get clarification about the new policy.

“I need to be perfectly honest with you — it’s a revenue generator,” Supt. Jeff Jones told parents.

He said the district is planning for anticipated provincial funding cuts after being told that money designated to help areas that are experiencing declining student enrolment will dry up in two years.

Thursday’s meeting was the third and final presentation to parents before the new school year starts in September, Jones said. He said the other two meetings, held in the West Kootenay, attracted 90 and 20 parents, respectively.

Charging bus fees is expected to net the district about $80,000 annually, he said. Reductions in bus routes will create another $80,000 in savings, said district operations director Larry Brown.

Of SD8’s 2,500 students who ride buses, about 500 are considered to be attending schools out of their catchment areas. Students who bus because their catchment school had no room, or because a particular program — like French immersion — defines a larger catchment area, won’t be charged. Parents can apply under a hardship program if they are unable to pay the costs of sending a child to school out of their area.

A number of parents at the meeting said there was no room in their catchment school so they were forced to send their children elsewhere. Jones did not address whether those students would be charged if room became available in a catchment school in following years.

On the school district website (www.sd8.bc.ca), a question and answer page makes it clear that parents who have been sending children to another school by their own choice will have to pay for transportation or enroll their kids in the catchment school.

A discussion about catchment boundaries for Kitchener students ended in confusion, with Jones committing to research the history. Erickson Elementary School principal Nancy Devuono said that Kitchener used to be in the Erickson catchment but that it was changed in 2010, and Canyon-Lister Elementary School is now Kitchener’s catchment area.

When parents expressed frustration that notice about busing fees came so late in the school year, Brown said he didn’t disagree.

“I admit that the timing is very tight on this,” he said.

Jones said the district’s intent was to begin consulting with parents after the transportation fees were included in the board’s 2012-2013 budget was passed in May. But a motion to the board of trustees to reconsider the fees delayed his plans, he said. Only after the motion was defeated at the May 29 meeting in Creston did he feel able to schedule meetings with parents, he said.