The Calgary Board of Education says it needs $13.2 million in order to maintain current student transportation levels.
That leaves the board, which has come under fire in the past year for busing issues, with several options. They can ask the province for more money, they can ask parents to pay more for busing, or they can reduce services.
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Last spring, the CBE said it would be reducing its bus routes and moving from "community-based' to "congregated" bus stops. That meant some students were made to walk as far as 2.4 kilometres to catch a ride.
That decision was reversed in early September, when the NDP moved to shorten the maximum distance students would have to walk to catch the bus to school.
But that was a one-year solution, said chief superintendent David Stevenson.
The board says provincial funding and school bus fees do not cover the projected total cost of providing daily bus service for 37,000 students. The CBE will hold a series of workshops in April to ask parents how they think that shortfall should be covered.
Tacking that cost entirely onto school bus fees would mean parents could be charged as much as $500 or more per student, instead of the current $300. Board chair Joy Bowen-Eyre says it's important to hear from the community because of the magnitude of the shortfall.
"Part of our engagement is going out to our families and our students and the community and saying, "How do we close that gap? Do we close that gap by increasing fees? Do we close that gap by taking money from the classroom? Do we close that gap by reducing services for our families and our students?" said Bowen-Eyre.
The CBE expects 2,500 to 2,700 more students in its schools next fall. Currently, 26,000 CBE students take yellow buses every day, while 11,000 take Calgary Transit.
In December, the CBE contracted experts to conduct a technical review of its transportation services. The results of the review will contribute to the engagement sessions, the board said.
"This technical review highlighted that there are limited opportunities to save money through operational efficiencies," said Stevenson.
"It is important for us to hear from as many parents, students, staff and stakeholders as possible to help us develop a sustainable, long-term transportation strategy."
Education minister David Eggen said his department is looking into the issue.
"I know the Calgary Board of Education has expressed concerns about how transportation is funded. We have been discussing these matters with the board and will continue to do so," Eggen said in a statement.
"My department will be reviewing the report from the board in greater detail in the coming days, and will report back to me."
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated parents could be charged $820 per student as a result of the funding gap. In fact, parents could pay as much as $500 or more per student, up from $300.Mar 09, 2016 6:44 PM MT