Improved transportation in store for valley schools

Education Minister Mike Bernier announces Student Transportation Fund.

Rocky Mountain School District 6 has been allocated $369,399 from the Ministry of Education for transportation services. Education Minister Mike Bernier made the announcement that $14.7 million was being made available to a majority of B.C. school districts through the new Student Transportation Fund on August 10th, to provide students and families with affordable transportation options.

“As a parent in a rural community, I know about the challenges of getting kids to school on time and then getting them home at the end of the day. This funding will help districts provide better bus and transportation services at lower costs to parents,” said Bernier in a press release.

The funding can be used in a variety of ways to improve student transportation including adding newly amended routes, providing accessible services for students with disabilities and funding existing transportation services.

This past June, government returned $25 million in administrative savings to districts — and many of them had found those savings in their transportation money. With close to $15 million more funding flowing to districts, parents will see districts enhancing services and eliminating fees,” said Bernier.

To receive funding, school districts must submit a plan to the Ministry of Education by September 30th, outlining how the funds would boost transportation in the school district.The Rocky Mountain District 6 has already received the funding based on a formula developed by the Ministry of Education. The formula accounts for rural makeup of a school district to determine the amount of funding awarded to each district.

Because Rocky Mountain is so spread out, our transportation costs are proportionately higher than more urban areas, and that means that we receive a proportionately larger share of the funds relative to our student enrolment,” Rocky Mountain Superintendent Paul Carriere told The Echo in an email .The nearby school districts of Kootenay-Columbia and Revelstoke each received $242,977 and $49,847 respectively.

The Rocky Mountain School District has not charged parents bussing fees in the past but rather opted to make other budget changes to maintain transportation services for students.Our Board of Education has not considered charging parents transportation fees for bussing to and from school, which has been the case in eight out of the 60 school districts in B.C., and that has meant that when things have gotten tight, we have looked for ways to maintain as many services as we could by making sometimes challenging budget decisions,” said Carriere.

All districts who obtain the Student Transportation Fund must use the funds for transportation services. They will then report back to the ministry on the outcomes and benefits the transportation funding had on the school district. For SD6, the transportation plan will be assessed and finalized with the school board. Carrier suspects the funding to be allocated to existing services and putting in new services.The great thing about this announcement is that it reduces that pressure on the overall budget, and will allow us to provide even better quality transportation services,” he said.