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Nanaimo school trustees nix bus to Ladysmith

Soon-to-be displaced students of Cedar Community Secondary School will not have bus service to Ladysmith Secondary School for the 2014-15 school year.

In a school selection process, a majority of students (162 of 310) chose the Ladysmith high school over catchment school John Barsby Secondary, but a motion to provide busing was narrowly defeated by a 5-4 margin at a special meeting on Thursday night, citing costs.

School trustees TerryLynn Saunders, Bill Robinson, Kim Howland and Sharon Welch voted for and Dot Neary, Donna Allen, Jamie Brennan, Bill Bard and Nancy Curley against.

Steve Rae, a parent and spokesman for the Save Cedar Schools Coalition, was not surprised, but expressed anger at the decision.

“Over half the students chose Ladysmith and more would have if they had made it clear that there was busing. This isn’t about better educational opportunities for the kids; they claim it is, but it’s not. This is about filling John Barsby,” he said.

Neary, school board chairwoman, said although the Ladysmith high school was added as an option for Cedar students in addition to Barsby, busing was never promised.

“The majority of the board decided that they were going to stick to the original decision. Transportation is organized in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. We have our transportation policy to define who qualifies for transportation and under that policy, generally students are only entitled to transportation to the catchment school,” Neary said.

While busing was provided to Chase River Elementary after the closure of South Wellington Elementary School last June, even though it wasn’t the catchment school, school district spokeswoman Donna Reimer said it was more feasible in that situation.

“That is actually, simply an extension of an already existing route and so the cost was very low,” Reimer said, adding that the cost was about $7,000.

The board asked school district staff to examine bus options with the Regional District of Nanaimo and carpool software for parents with students attending Ladysmith Secondary in the fall.

In a January report, the school district said startup costs for busing to John Barsby and Ladysmith were estimated at approximately $869,000 while first-year costs for John Barsby alone, which will be provided, was about $456,000.

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