The Okanagan Skaha School District has been granted an extra $167,035 to help improve busing in the district.
The money is coming from the new Provincial Student Transportation fund, which was announced at the beginning of the 2016/17 school year, aimed at encouraging school districts that charge parents a transportation fee to remove it.
Over the past decade, as school districts have had to cut budgets, some chose to add a transportation fee rather than cut elsewhere. After discussions with partner groups, like parent advisory councils, the Okanagan Skaha board of education chose to go the other way.
“The board felt that in our district, we shouldn’t,” said Superintendent Wendy Hyer in an interview at the start of the school year. “We need to support families in getting kids to school, that was the most important thing, so cuts were made elsewhere.”
Not having a transportation fee means the Okanagan Skaha School District can use the money for other transportation projects: create a new bus pass system to track the exact location and time students are riding the bus; provide alternative transportation for students that need it and offset cost pressures on the transportation budget.
“It is great to see this new fund being so well utilized by the school district. Parents will take comfort in the fact that the new bus pass system will track the exact location of a bus anytime and anywhere on its route,” said MLA Dan Ashton.
The amount of funding a district is eligible for is based on a formula tied to the ministry’s student location factor, which is used to determine the rural makeup of a school district. Districts will be required to report back on the outcomes and benefits they achieve as a result of the funding.
The new $14.7-million Student Transportation Fund was announced in August to help school districts provide affordable, accessible transportation for B.C. families.