Education ministry offers new school bus funds

Students and parents in the Okanagan Skaha School District could soon have access to improved school transportation services

Students and parents in the Okanagan Skaha School District could soon have access to improved school transportation services, thanks to up to $167,035 in provincial funding being made available.

The district is being encouraged to apply for the funding available under the provincial government’s new $14.7 million School Transportation Fund. Funding will continue on an ongoing basis in future years.

“Many local families rely on these important transportation services, and want to be reassured their children are getting to school safely each day,” said Penticton MLA Dan Ashton. “I encourage SD67 to apply for these funds — giving the district the flexibility it needs to address transportation challenges, and giving parents that peace of mind.”

The handful of districts that currently charge families a transportation fee for a student’s local or catchment area school must eliminate those fees to be eligible to access the funding under the program. All districts need to use the funding for transportation services to be eligible.

Funding can also be used in a variety of ways, including improving service by adding new or amended routes; improving access to local transit services; providing accessible services for students with disabilities; reducing ride times; boosting student safety by relocating bus stops and improving bus supervision; and funding existing transportation services and investing the savings in enhanced student services.

To be eligible for funding, districts must submit a plan to the Ministry of Education by Sept. 30 outlining how they will use the funding to boost transportation services for students and families. Districts will hear back shortly after they submit their applications on how much funding they will receive.

The amount of funding a district is eligible for is based on a formula tied to the Ministry of Education’s student location factor, which is used to determine the rural makeup of a school district. Districts will also be required to report back on the outcomes and the benefits they achieved as a result of the funding.

As a result of B.C.’s strong economic growth and fiscal discipline, government is able to make key investments like the School Transportation Fund to improve the lives of British Columbians.

The Student Transportation Fund, builds on government’s recent investments to further strengthen B.C.’s education system and support student learning, including: $25 million of administrative savings returned to school districts to invest in students; $2 million Rural Education Enhancement Fund to help keep schools open; $28 million to ensure enrolment increases and labour settlements are covered; and, $6 million to train teachers on coding and new curriculum and to buy computers.

It’s the third funding injection for schools in recent months. As the school year wound down in June, Education Minister Mike Bernier announced another $2 million fund where districts could apply to keep rural schools open that were scheduled to be closed.