British Columbia

300 students in Sooke waitlisted for spot on school bus

Hundreds of students heading off to school next week in the Sooke School District might not have a spot on the school bus to get to class.

B.C.’s fastest growing district struggling to keep up with student demand

Three hundred students currently don't have a spot on the school bus and are on a waitlist. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

Hundreds of students heading off to school next week in the Sooke School District might not have a spot on the school bus to get to class.  

Sooke, the fastest growing district in B.C. last year, was expecting 3,200 school children to need rides. Instead, more than 3,500 signed up and the extra few hundred students are now on a waitlist, said district superintendent Jim Cambridge.

"At our current look at buses, we are approximately 300 over what our capacity is," Cambridge told CBC's All Points West host Jason D'Souza.

The Sooke School District is currently the only one in the Capital Region with a waitlist for school buses.  

Cambridge said his district's spike in school bus registration is largely due to the rapidly growing population in the western communities. The district added seats and an extra route for the fall, but the demand exceeded anticipations.  

To listen to the interview with Jim Cambridge, click on the audio link below:

Spike in demand

Last year, the school district grew five per cent. Cambridge said that makes it difficult to predict how many students will require bus rides or what part of the district, which spans multiple municipalities, to route the buses through.

Cambridge also pointed to the fact the school bus is free this year, compared to last year's minimal fee. He believes could have encouraged more families than usual to sign up, even if they don't plan to use the bus system often.  

"There may be parents who registered their child as a more of a casual rider, saying that because it's free and there is no cost to them, they might as well register because they may go once in a while if it's a rainy day."

Contingency plans

Once classes start and the district has a clearer idea of how many students are actually using the buses and not just registered, Cambridge said they will look into adding more buses and routes.

"It's certainly not something to panic about, we will make adjustments as need be," he said. "I know it's frustrating for parents but we can only act on the information that we have, and right now we don't have all the information."

He said there will be spare buses on standby during the first week of school, ready to take students in areas where there are overloads, and the district will consider adding extra bus routes if needed.  

With files from All Points West