Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the editorial in the Thursday paper last week.

It is important for the public to understand that the District Policy on Transportation has not changed. Optimizing routes in the District happens annually because there are demographic shifts in the population served by the School District Transportation system. Any changes that have occurred in bussing for 2017-18 have happened because the Transportation system is set up to meet the needs of eligible riders. The mandate of the system is to transport primary students living more than 4 km from their school, and intermediate/secondary students living more than 4.8 km from their school (guidelines that originated in the BC School Act and are now part of Board Policy). It is designed for these riders to have transportation to and from school, not for courtesy riders, who we may be able to transport if there is room available once the bus routes are finalized for a school year. One of the most incorrect assumptions that has been made is that the school district is expecting Kindergarten children, for example, to walk 4km to school. That is not true. It has always been the case that the Policy strikes a balance between the parental responsibilities and school district responsibilities for transportation. Since the transportation system of the school district cannot give everyone a ride to school, decisions have to be made about where that “line” is. In the Kimberley example you are citing, the community gave very clear feedback to the Board that they did not want them to consider a reconfiguration of schools to a K-7 model, which would have significantly reduced transportation requirements in Kimberley. The subject of transportation changes was part of the public discussion, and it was clear that transportation system adjustments were preferred over configuration changes, so that is what the Board did. A catchment line was drawn in Kimberley, the bus routes were reorganized to serve eligible riders to the schools, and that redesign has meant there are a number of families living closer than 4K from a primary school, for example, who will not be able to get a courtesy ride and will need to transport their children as necessary. The Kimberley change means that the situation for in-town families will be the same as it already is in Invermere and Golden. The Board of Education is very aware that if a family had come to rely on a courtesy ride, whether it was to and from school or to an after school day care program, and the optimization of routes has changed that for them this year, there will be an impact and families will need to adjust. But it is not happening because there has been a decision to alter Policy, it is happening to bring the routes into alignment with the Policy that has been serving the communities of the School District for many years, a policy which seeks to strike a delicate and sometimes sensitive balance.  

Paul Carriere

Superintendent of Schools