Nanaimo school district updates transportation policy

NANAIMO – With sections dating back to 1986, Nanaimo school district wants transportation policy update.

With a transportation policy featuring sections that haven’t been revised since 1986, the Nanaimo school district has begun a process to bring it up to date.

The district will begin taking online feedback later this spring and a public meeting at John Barsby Secondary School Tuesday night served as a start to the process.

A draft policy is expected in June, with the board anticipating a vote in the fall. Any changes coming from the process would take effect in 2017-18.

B.C. Ministry of Education no longer provides specific transportation funding, rather it includes it in a lump sum of money to school districts, said John Blain, school superintendent.

Stephanie Higginson, board vice-chairwoman, says funding has decreased.

Tiffany Nelson, parent of a Barsby student, said one of her greatest concerns about a revision is how students have been shuffled from school to school and the catchment has swelled due to closures.

“As compared to right here and now versus 10 years ago, there’s a much larger student population that is dependent on transportation, so there’s this paradox that it’s less funded than it’s ever been and more essential than it’s ever been,” said Nelson during an interview after the meeting.

Nelson hopes vulnerable students are taken care of as the update is developed. Students who need the access the most are the least flexible in terms of transportation provisions, she said.

“I’m concerned about parents who are shift workers, I’m concerned about single parents. I’m concerned about parents who may not be sending their kids to school some days because either the bus didn’t come or they didn’t have a lunch to pack them so now that child doesn’t access the breakfast program that day either,” said Nelson.

Caeleigh Nelson, Tiffany’s daughter, said the bus ride from Cinnabar Valley takes about 20 minutes and she likes things as they are.

“The way that it can get all students to the school and gets [them there] on time, if not a couple of minutes early and we have bus drivers that we have a connection with … I’d hate to see that ruined,” said Caeleigh Nelson.

Blain said the district transports 1,723 students, with 956 meeting existing busing criteria, including residing more than 4.1 kilometres from school.

There are 733 courtesy riders – non-qualifying, who use empty seats – and 34 special needs students.