Parents and some Rocky View School staff are not happy with the school board’s proposed options to mitigate a $1-million shortfall in the division’s transportation budget.
Close to 50 parents, teachers and bus drivers attended a public consultation meeting Tuesday to discuss the issue, though the meeting did fall on the same evening as RVS’ parent teacher interview night. The meeting also came just two days before the first round of Rocky View Schools’ online transportation budget feedback survey wrapped up.
Greg Luterbach, RVS superintendent, broke down potential cost saving options which included staggering bell times to accommodate double and triple bus runs, lengthening students’ walking distances to bus stops and transferring up to $1 million from the instructional budget to transportation budget as a revenue source. However, audience members questioned the sustainability of the fund transfer and whether it would only be a Band-Aide fix until the next year.
“There isn’t really a good option. The last thing I want to see them do is take it out of education. I think the kids will suffer more,” said Helena Lapointe who has two children in attending Cochrane High School.
The RVS board said the district’s transportation budget deficit is due largely to a shortfall in funding from the province over the last 10 years combined with increased costs from the provincial carbon levy of $360,000. Capping off the additional costs was the implementation of Bill 1 which no longer permits school districts to charge bus fees to families who live more than 2.4 km for their designated school.
During the meeting, bus drivers in attendance raised concerns over the lack of consideration for the drivers’ lives, citing concerns that double and triple runs could impede on their schedules since many work second jobs after their morning runs. Concerns were also raised over the length of time drivers’ young children, who are under school age and ride along in the morning, would spend on the bus and if they would be compensated for the increased driving time.
Jonathan Weal of Southland Transportation Ltd., one of the transportation companies in contract with RVS, said he could not comment on the proposed changes until they are official, but said there were no problems for Calgary drivers scheduled for double and triple bus runs.
“We’ve been successfully running doubled up and tripled up school routes for other districts for a number of years now and it’s one of the options open to the (RVS) school board,” he said. “With regard to the drivers … we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Weal noted drivers are paid a standard rate for each a morning and afternoon run, and if either of the runs takes longer, drivers are compensated by the quarter hour.
He added he has never heard any complaints from drivers over the amount of time their children spend with them on the bus. “It’s a very small percentage of drivers who bring their children with them.”
Todd Brand, chair of RVS board of trustees, said the feedback from parents and staff from both the public forums and surveys will be considered when drafting the second round of consultation.
“Quite frankly, we wish we didn’t have to be in a position to make those decisions but when you have tough decisions to make, you need to talk to the stakeholders who are going to be most affected,” Brand said. “Unfortunately there’s not a lot of easy choices on this one.”
A second public survey will be created and available in the coming weeks. Board deliberation for a final decision is slated for April 12.