Whether it’s through YouTube, email or an actual face-to-face, parents are being asked to school themselves because more cuts are coming – this time to the school district’s bus service.
Facing a deficit nearing $1 million by next year, SD20 (School District 20) trustees have reviewed the student transportation system and are now requesting parental feedback on eight cost savings options.
Superintendent Greg Luterbach walks viewers through a video on YouTube (link available at sd20.bc.ca) that details the number of students currently riding SD20 buses, alternatives being considered with respective cost savings and a feedback survey link asking parents to rate the eight suggestions.
Another way to have a say is to attend a public forum slated April 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the gym of the Kootenay-Columbia Learning Centre. The meeting will provide attendees the same information that was made available to parents this week through email and on the district’s website.
“Over the past number of years, as the board has dealt with cutting costs and budget deficits, the idea of potentially charging fees to students who ride the school bus has been considered,” Luterbach explained. “Last spring the board committed to reviewing our student transportation system and has met numerous times throughout the winter on the topic…we are ready to share the options being considered.”
The most drastic change would be to stop all SD20 transportation services and save $1.3 million. That would leave 1850 students without bus service, 100 of those being rural-living secondary students with no viable means to get to school.
The other seven scenarios all include attaching a fee for the service to provide between a $210,000 to $438,000 savings depending upon the option.
The board forecast a $650,000 deficit this year, but that grew to $930,000 following a recent provincial update, according to Luterbach.
“Two weeks ago, in the funding announcement by the provincial government, we found out that our ministry funding will not be sufficient to cover the salary increases for teachers and support staff negotiated by the province,” Luterbach said.
“While no trustee wants to reduce transportation service and/or implement busing fees, given the cuts and reduction in services in countless other areas throughout the district over the past 10 years, it is something the board must consider,” he added.
“Balancing the budget through cutting $950,000 worth of teachers, support staff, principals, technology, maintenance, and/or school supplies is as equally unappealing.”
Andrew Davidoff, president of the Kootenay-Columbia Teachers’ Union penned a response Tuesday, acknowledging the shortfall and potential cutting of SD20 services.
“We reiterate our repeated advise to our board that we need trustees, parents, PACs, support staff, PVPs, senior management, students and teachers across this province to stand up to this government,” he said. “And demand adequate funding for public education in B.C. to at least the national average in Canada.”