atch: Tension is growing in the Sooke school district as a bus shortage could lead to $175,000 cut from classrooms and services. Isabelle Raghem explains why.
Classrooms, extra-curricular activities and services in the Sooke school district are facing cuts due to the overwhelming demand for bus seats.
“Since busing became free in 2016,” said Chair of School District 62 Ravi Parmar, “we’ve seen an increase of 50 percent and 1,400 students over two years”
The Sooke School Board says they had anticipated for 3,200 riders but are now dealing with more than 4,100 registered riders.
Parents received a letter last week asking those who have other transportation options to voluntarily withdraw their registration.
B.C.’s fastest growing district used to charge riders $225 each a year to cover busing costs. But that changed when the province introduced a $350,000 fund for school
But that changed when the province introduced a $350,000 fund for school transportation in the summer of 2016. The Sooke School District had to eliminate busing fees to qualify for the money. Now, Parmar says that amount is no longer sufficient.
“What we’ve learned is that amount, that $350,000, stays the same every single year. It doesn’t grow, with growth [in ridership].”
Parmar explains a letter has been sent to the Minister of Education requesting a boost.
“[We’re] asking for funding for three additional bus routes which is about $150,000 to $175,000. If the government decides it doesn’t give us that funding then the board has a tough decision to either take that money out of the classroom or decide not to add those three additional bus routes.”
He says that could mean cuts to supplies, staffing or wherever they can find the cash.
” [It’s] a very tough decision.”
The board says it will consider adding an administration fee for registration or walking limits next year.
About 80 families have withdrawn their registration since hearing about the bus crisis, alleviating some pressure but Parmar says it’s far from solving the problem.