New runs, a new school and late registrations are being blamed by SD23 officials for busing issues throughout the school district.
A school board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 11, saw several disgruntled parents show up to hear how the district plans to deal with the several students still without transportation going into the third week of the new school year.
Several students are having to walk long distances to school, including some walking across highways and in locations with no sidewalks.
“We did not do a very good job of communicating with parents,” said Moyra Baxter, chairperson of the Central Okanagan School Board.
“We realize this year is very unusual, very upsetting for parents and people at the meeting expressed their concerns. We had quite a lot of input last night and we’re still trying to move forward and get everything sorted out this year.”
Baxter said there still may be a few run changes and bus stop changes as they attempt to remedy the situation.
“Our transportation system does need to be looked at in the big picture of how we allocate funds within our district,” she said.
“We will be doing that over the next few months through surveys and public consultations. We’ll have to come to some decisions before the spring when we move into next year’s registrations so we don’t have the same issue.”
Baxter also said the district is not obliged to provide any busing at all but they have been committed to providing the best service that they can.
“No matter what we do, there will always be unhappy people,” she said.
She said the majority of affected riders are “courtesy riders” who live within 4 km of school for elementary students and 4.8 km for those in junior high and high school. She said almost all who live outside of those boundaries are on buses.
Parents in the community have described the situation as upsetting, confusing and inconvenient.
“Many of the roads the students are asked to walk, are in rural areas where there are no sidewalks, no street lighting, and where there will be snowbanks in the winter,” wrote concerned parent Richard Shepherd in a letter to the Capital News.
“I would have assumed that the safety of students would be the top priority of school officials. Do we have to wait until there is a tragic accident?”
Even those who were placed on buses are upset with how the situation has played out.
One West Kelowna mother said her daughter’s original stop was removed and now she’s walking across Highway 97 on the shoulder of a road with no sidewalk to get to her bus stop.
“I’ve been calling the transportation office for four weeks now and have gotten no response,” she said. “The biggest concern myself and other parents have is the lack of communication from the transportation department.”