Calgary

School bus options to tackle budget shortfall unveiled by Calgary Board of Education

The Calgary Board of Education has released several options for busing and is hosting forums on May 3 and 4 to discuss the plans.

Parents can have their say at 2 public forums, but CBE only letting in 100 each night

CBE board chair Joy Bowen-Eyre says the board is facing a $13.2 million gap in transportation funding for students. The board has released seven options for transportation in the coming year. (CBC)

The Calgary Board of Education has released six options for busing and is hosting forums on May 3 and 4 to discuss the plans. 

The forums are only open to 100 participants each, with parents required to register ahead of time.

Currently, the public board is staring down a $13-million shortfall in its transportation budget and looking for ways to trim costs.

The school board outlined a status quo option on Monday, but said that is not on the table at press conference on Tuesday. Its inclusion, along with a $5 million deficit if enacted, was used to illustrate the budget problem. 

The CBE is not allowed to run a deficit.

It gets worse from there for students and parents. 

The real options either include an increase in fees, reduced service, more reliance on Calgary Transit, or some combination of the three.

Higher fees

In one scenario, service would remain the same but fees would shoot up from $300 to between $500 and $525 in order to close the budget shortfall. 

In another scenario, fees for regular program students could hit $600 and fees for alternative program students would be $750. There would also be more Calgary Transit use in this scenario, along with no mid-day service for kindergarten and increased walking distances. 

That scenario would also have a fee waiver for eligible families and no commitment to service improvements. 

Some options are less grim in terms of cost, with stable fees or slight increases, but with greater travel distance to some stops, particularly for those in alternative programs. 

Impact and forums

If parents want to see shorter travel distances to stops, they'll have to cough up between $525 and $600 more per year, but that could also significantly increase the time kids spend on the buses. The costs would be dependent on changes to bell times at area schools.

One concern highlighted by the CBE is the increased strain on some families with higher fees, particularly in the case of alternative programs which includes language-immersion programs. 

The May 3 community forum will be held at Henry Wise Wood High School, while the May 4 forum will be held at Queen Elizabeth High School. Both are between 6:30 and 9 p.m.

You can register for the forums here. An online survey on the transportation options is also open until May 8. 

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