Peace River students to pay $100 for school bus services next year
'It's really unfair to rural families and students,' board chair says of province's new funding formula
Families in Peace River whose children ride the school bus may soon have to pay for the service under the B.C. government's changes to the funding formula for school districts.
The district says it is facing a transportation budget shortfall of $541,000, and this fall the district will be charging a registration fee of $100 per family.
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"It's absolutely horrible. It's really unfair to rural families and students," said Jaret Thompson, chair of the Peace River North School District. "Transportation for school is access to education and we don't believe this should happen at all."
Approximately 2,200 of 5,500 students in the Peace River North district use the school bus services. On average each student's bus trip lasts 30 to 45 minutes, but some students ride the bus for nearly two hours.
This year, local communities contributed money to cover the majority of the costs, but the funds are running out, so the district will be charging a registration fee of $100 per family.
Thompson says the $100 fee won't come anywhere close to covering the cost. If parents can't afford the rising fees, the district will make accommodations for those situations.
"We are going to have to find other efficiencies in our budget elsewhere and burn up a little bit of our surplus dollars."
Thompson worries fees could rise to as high as $500 per family by the 2016/2017 school year.
He says while many districts have lost money on transportation as a result of the changing formula, it is especially difficult for his district given it's a rural region.
"When the province moved to close smaller, one and two-room schools throughout the province in rural areas, it was done on the promise of providing transportation. Now we have this change and rural families have every reason to be very frustrated."
The district has been in discussions with the government, but no substantial progress has been made, according to Thompson.
To hear the full interview with Peace River North District Chair Jaret Thompson, listen to the audio labelled School bus funding