Why late buses could be a good thing for some schools in western P.E.I.

Students in western P.E.I. will get to stay after school and still take the bus home, thanks to a pilot project this year, initiated at the request of two Westisle High School students.

Students can take a bus home after extracurriculars twice a week

Many students attending Westisle Composite High School ride a bus home after school. (John Robertson/CBC)

Students in western P.E.I. will get to stay after school and still take the bus home, thanks to a pilot project this year, initiated at the request of two Westisle High School students.

The Public Schools Branch is providing two late buses, two days a week, at a cost of $18,000 for the school year.

"I'll definitely be using them to get home," said Grade 12 student Ashton Grigg, who plays soccer after school. 

She was part of the district advisory council that had asked for the later after-school buses.

"I'm just hoping that people take advantage of them because it is a big deal and it is really convenient and I am sure a lot of parents would appreciate it if their kids took them."

Ashton Grigg was part of the district advisory council and asked for a later bus to allow students to take part in after-school programs. (John Robertson/CBC)

"It just allows the opportunity for more students to take part in extracurricular activities and it doesn't just mean athletics," said Westisle High School principal Heidi Morgan.

"It just allows those students hopefully to take part in more extracurricular activities, to enhance the whole experience here at Westisle."

One of the goals of the later bus route is to allow more students to take part in after-school activities and sports. (John Robertson/CBC)

The logistics are still being finalized, but the buses will pick up students at Westisle High School, as well as Hernewood and M.E. Callaghan intermediate schools.

Then all of the students will be dropped off at elementary schools in their home communities. 

"Historically, if students wanted to stay after school they would have to either have a parent or guardian come and pick them up or carpool with friends who had their licence and had a vehicle," Morgan said.

"It's only two days a week so it's not going to cover everything but we're hoping we see an increase in student involvement."

Westisle Principal Heidi Morgan says the last time the area had a later bus was back in 1994. (John Robertson/CBC)

Student suggestion

John Cummings, of the Public Schools Branch, agrees it's important that this suggestion was brought forward by students. 

"I think it's powerful that students are part of the district advisory councils and that definitely resonated with us, their concerns in addition to the concerns from parents and others in the area," Cummings said.

"We'll be working with schools to get feedback and ultimately I think the ridership and the usage of the service will dictate how successful it is and how people view it."

The pilot project will look at how many students take advantage of the later bus. (John Robertson/CBC)

Grigg is glad to see the district advisory council's request take shape so quickly.

"I knew that the whole purpose of the council was to bring stuff up like that.... It was great to hear that stuff was actually being done," Grigg said.

Some students may choose to take a later bus to help them take part in things like student council or band practice. (John Robertson/CBC)

Morgan thinks other P.E.I. schools may also be interested in the idea of late buses to allow extracurricular activities, something that she says existed in the '90s.

"There are other rural schools obviously on the Island that would benefit from something similar to this program," she said. 

"So I could see it being something that could be utilized in other areas of the province as well." 

Get the word out

Morgan says tryouts for sports teams at the school are underway now, so it has been important to get word out about the late buses.

"We're trying to promote it as much as possible so they really understand what it is and what it means," Morgan said.

The late after-school buses will drop off students at elementary schools closer to their homes. (John Robertson/CBC)

"It will take a little time but we're really hoping it will catch on quickly."

The pilot project gets underway this week at the Westisle family of schools and will run for at least the full year.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Nancy Russell and John Robertson

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