Parents in Prince George may soon have to pay an annual fee of $100 per child to ensure they can hop on the district's school buses.
School District 57 trustees say they may be forced to impose the fee due to the B.C. government's ongoing budget cuts to schools through 'administrative savings,' but some parents say the school bus fee will come out of families' budget for essentials like groceries.
"Those parents are going to have to take that money from food, shelter, clothing — really important places — to bus their kids to school," said Fiona Kitt, a parent living in Prince George.
"Kids have a right to education, but they don't have a right to be safely bussed there anymore?"
The proposed school bus fee would be be capped at $300 per family and, for some families, would be covered under the district's financial hardship policy.
The school district was forced to cut $727,000 from its budget this school year and is looking for ways to cut $650,000 for the 2016-2017 school year.
How much does it cost to bus a student to school?
School District 57, the second-largest geographical district in B.C., spends between $4.5 to $5 million every year on its school bus service, which amounts to about $1,500 per student, according to Tim Bennett, the school board's vice chair.
The issue of transportation is unavoidable in B.C.'s north, he said.
"We have a lot of rural schools where students need and rely on the bus to get to school, so transportation is one of the largest budget items in the district."
The school board says it has already taken funds out of other projects to accommodate budget cuts in past years. This time around, it has to look at other options, said Bennett.
"The only way we can address administrative savings is either raise revenue or cut expenses."
Bennett says it's ultimately up to the provincial government to ensure schools in B.C.'s north are well funded.
"We need government to start investing in northern, rural and remote districts to ensure that kids in the north have the same opportunities as children across the province when it comes to public education."
The school board has not set a final decision date on the school bus fee proposal.
To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: Possible school bus fee for families in School District 57.