Central Okanagan school board members voted to eliminate two school bus routes at a meeting on March 11.
The elimination impacts approximately 19 students taking bus route 314 from South Kelowna to Ecole Casorso Elementary and 59 students taking bus route 320 from Upper Mission to Ecole Dothea Walker in Kelowna.
School district secretary treasurer Ryan Stierman said the bus cancellations will save the district a lot of money in the long run.
“The board has made the decision through a policy that transportation should only be provided to a student’s English catchment school,” said Stierman.
“The cost to operate a system that has to route students in different directions would substantially increase the cost of running the transportation system.”
With the cancellations, Stierman said many of the students will likely be able to catch a ride on a bus route to Chute Lake Elementary or Anne McClymont Elementary for the 2020-2021 school year.
The decision has faced backlash from parents with children in French immersion programs at both schools. At a school board meeting on March 4, several parents came forward and said cancelling bus services for French students in the district was discriminatory.
School board trustee Moyra Baxter said organizing reliable school bus transportation for French immersion students has always been difficult in the district.
“For French immersion students, I’ve always said that we should either bus them all to our French immersion school or we shouldn’t bus any of them at all, even if it’s their English catchment school,” said Baxter.
“If we said we were going to bus French immersion students to the closest French immersion school where they live, you could imagine that we’d be busing a huge number of extra students.”
According to the school board, there are approximately 2,400 students in French immersion programs in the district.
To register your child for bus transportation in the Central Okanagan for the 2020/2021 school year, you can visit the school district’s website.