School district launches transportation review

NANAIMO: School officials for parent input on school bus system.

Nanaimo school officials are looking to tune up or overhaul the district’s transportation services and wants parents to share their thoughts on the school bus system.

The district hired a consulting firm to conduct a review of the bus transportation operations to determine if there are any efficiencies or changes to the current system the district should consider.

“Our funding has been frozen for about 10 years, although our costs have gone up,” said Jamie Brennan, school board chairman. “It’s a drain on our budget. We have to see if there are any opportunities for efficiencies. We have to look at all parts of the situation.”

The district currently provides busing service to about 1,836 students, out of a total enrolment of about 14,000 students.

The review will look at walk limits, current configuration of routes, courtesy riders, user-pay systems, staff training, types of buses and fuel usage, how school schedules affect bus routes and the transportation assistance program.

Brennan said the review may mean service reductions, as trustees want to ensure the district doesn’t keep routes that are no longer necessary, but it could also recommend service additions – for example, trustees may decide for safety reasons that bus service is vital in an area previously not served.

He said trustees would likely vote down any recommendation for a user-pay system, as the board does not want to negatively impact families already struggling to pay rent and put food on the table.

Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said the ministry provides the district with $1.225 million for transportation services and the district spends about $1.696 million on these services.

“But it’s not targeted,” she said. “We can spend more or we can spend less. The idea of the review is to take an overall look at the system. The community changes over time.”

Cost of the review is $22,400.

Brennan said the consulting firm, Management Partnership Services Inc., based out of Maryland, which provides student transportation and fleet management consulting services, was picked because it is highly regarded and has worked elsewhere in B.C. in the past.

Parents can submit their thoughts on the current bus system online at http://bit.ly/sd68BusReview until Oct. 1.

The district will follow up by e-mail to ask people to choose priorities from the answers received and then a summary will be given to the consultant for consideration in the review.

Once the school board receives the consultant’s report, there would be a consultation process with parents if any recommendations mean major changes to the current system.

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