SD 20 to drop bus fees, refund monies already paid
The School District 20 has eliminated the controversial student busing fees slated to be implemented this school year, after finding out they’ll be ellibigle for a roughly $243,000 grant earmarked for transportation services.
Castlegar Trustee Mickey Kinakin said this means the district has to submit a report indicating the way they’ll use the grant money – and priority one was ditching the fees. In an emergency meeting Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to create a transportation plan to send to the province as soon as possible.
“It was a bridge too far,” Kinakin said of the fees, adding the province’s change of heart is a significant win for parents. “It’s a campaign that was won, and it just shows what parents can do (when they get politically active).”
He said the board also sent a letter to the ministry, thanking them for hearing the public opposition and making a change.
He said that, last time he checked, more than 1,100 parents had paid some or all of the fees – and they will all be reimbursed. He added roughly 1,800 student district-wide would have been subject to the fees prior to this development.
“It’ll be a substantial amount of money,” he said.
What won’t change is the district’s issuing of chip-enhanced bus passes for all the kids using district transportation, cards that kids will swipe when they get on and off the bus. Students will still be getting the brand-new cards, which will offer both staffing and safety enhancements, Kinakin said.
He said they’ll be better able to track usage and gather long-term data to assist in planning … but also to better protect kids.
“Sometimes, a student will get on the wrong bus or get off at the wrong stop,” he said. “Then everyone freaks out when their bus arrives and they’re not on it – and rightly so. This way, we’ll be able to track all the kids (in our care) and keep everyone safe.”