School District No. 74 Gold Trail (SD74) will be receiving $366,932 from the provincial government, under a transportation funding program that was announced last week.
Education Minister Mike Bernier says that the new funding “will help districts provide better bus and transportation services at lower costs to parents.” Districts that currently charge families a transportation fee—as much as $416 per student—need to eliminate these charges before they can access the funding, but SD74 Board of Trustees co-chair Carmen Ranta says that is not an issue in Gold Trail.
“We don’t charge for busing, as we’ve done a lot of research and made our busing as efficient as possible,” she says. “And our budget is not pinched as much as some others, so we can sustain our busing. Charging would be a hardship for many families in our district. And I’ve heard loud and clear from other districts that they hate having to charge to retain transportation service.”
She cannot say what SD74’s plans for the funding are, as the board has yet to meet to discuss it. The funding formula for the program is weighted towards districts with large rural areas, and school districts must submit a funding plan to the ministry by the end of September.
“We don’t have buses that need replacing right now,” says Ranta, “and don’t have a lot of public concern regarding transportation that we’ve heard.” She adds that having more supervisors on buses is one option the board might consider.
Suggestions from the ministry include adding new routes, amending existing ones, improving disability access, adding or relocating bus stops to increase safety, and reducing ride times.
Ranta says that it’s nice that the ministry is calling it new money, and that it will be ongoing. “Any money for education is welcome, and we’ve felt unfairly disregarded in relation to funding. The time for asking districts to cut spending, to then spend it elsewhere, are over. The government is trying to relieve an area of need, and our district has to look at how to make that work for us.”
She says that the board will be actively preparing plans to get full utilization of the funding. “It probably won’t be that difficult for us to get a plan in by the end of September. It will be interesting to see how we can get our share of the money, and enhance services in School District 74.”