French school board needs more buses to cut students' long commutes

With some students of Island French schools travelling upwards of three hours a day on a bus, officials with P.E.I.’s French Language School Board say they hope the province will invest in more buses.

‘We've been working on finding a solution for at least a couple of years’

The French school board says five or six more buses should solve its woes. (John Robertson/CBC)

Officials with P.E.I.'s French Language School Board say they hope the province will invest in more buses for the students going to Island French schools.

Gilles Benoit, chair of the board, says some students are travelling upwards of three hours a day to get to and from school.

He estimates the school board needs five or six more buses in order to cut travel time.

"Since our numbers increased, the bus route has also increased," he said. 

"It was a problem before COVID, but it certainly got worse with the number of students we can put on buses since."

More buses or funding for taxis

Benoit said conversations with the Department of Education on this issue have been ongoing.

"We are exchanging letters and emails and we also presented this situation to the premier," he said.

"We're also looking at a taxi to try to drive students, those that are farther from the school, maybe use a taxi to bring them closer to the schools so that they can take the bus."

The school board's numbers have been going up over the last couple of years, and with that, it would like to see funding match enrolment growth.

Gilles Benoit, chair of the French Language School Board, says the board is also looking into other options, like paying for taxis to take outlying students closer to central bus routes. (CBC)

P.E.I. has six French schools — five with students from kindergarten to Grade 12 and École Saint-Augustin in Rustico that runs from grades 1 to 6.

This means many students have to travel to access their school, especially if they live in a rural place.

Benoit said there are several "hot spots" that he would like to see addressed first, like students in Borden who have to bus to Summerside. 

"We've been working on finding a solution for at least a couple of years," Benoit said.

"We have proposed some scenarios to go to the Department of Education. It always comes to finances."

The chair said he hopes to see a decision made in the coming weeks.

Officials with the Department of Education said they agree that the time spent on the bus is not ideal. They said they have been discussing solutions with the French board, and hope to have a resolution to address the issues soon. 

Some of the ideas being worked on, officials said, include adding more buses through the COVID contingency fund (one bus was added at the beginning of this year to address issues) and looking at short-term taxi or ride-booking apps as part of a solution.

The Public Schools Branch and French Language School Board are also working together to find ways to solve the most urgent transportation cases.

More from CBC P.E.I.


With files from Angela Walker


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.