School districts adjust bus schedules to demographics, sometimes combining two routes into one. That is exactly what happened this year in School District No. 6 when the decision was made to combine the Skookumchuk and Wasa bus runs.
“One bus can provide the service for all eligible riders in that area (it used to be two)” said District Superintendent Paul Carriere. “Specifically, the bus that used to go right up to Skookumchuk now picks up the students at Moan Road near the Wasa turnoff. This decision affects one family (two children). That family now must transport their children to the Moan Road stop to catch the bus for school.”
Ultimately, Carriere says, the Board Policy #3600 which reviews all bus routes annually, does not support the expense of providing bus service unless there are enough students in an area to warrant expending those resources.
However, the mother of the two children affected begs to differ. For her, it is a safety issue.
Lori Stober, husband Ron and their two children Hailey, 14, and Jon, 16 moved to Sheep Creek eight years ago. At that time, Lori says it was a big deal to them that a bus came up the road so her kids only had to walk 200 meters to meet it. At that time there were seven kids catching the bus. Now it’s down to two.
The new bus stop is 20 km away just past Wasa, near the rest stop.
“There was word of our bus route changing at the end of last year but we received no notice of this, and our bus route stayed the same right until the end of the school year,” Lori said. “At the start of this year I had heard rumours from our neighbour that our bus was cancelled. The day before school started I had to call and email the school board to find out when and where we were to drop off and pick up our kids, we took for granted that the bus route was still in place since we received no notice of the changes.
“Even when there was word of the bus route possibly changing we never thought they would move the bus so far down the road, we also thought that maybe it would be at the Premier Lake turn at the farthest.”
Safety is the issue, she says. “My son is in volleyball so sometimes my daughter will be getting off the bus alone, left on the side of a busy highway. What if there is an accident on the road or for some other reason we can’t get to the stop in time. With the old route, the kids could walk home. They would have to walk 20 kilometres up the highway to get home now. I think a bus stop should never exceed a distance too far for kids to walk home safely.
“Safety is a big issue for me. Last year, our bridge at the Kootenay River was closed for two days because of a flood. What would happen if it was -35 and our kids were dropped off on the side of the highway and we couldn’t get there. They would freeze.
“Not to mention the recent attack on the dad and his little girl in Blairmore. It’s a reminder that there are crazy people everywhere and our kids should never be left vulnerable on the side of a road, there are too many uncertainties.... it only takes two seconds to abduct a kid.
“This whole idea of saving a few bucks by cutting a bus route. I don’t think it’s worth the safety of our kids.”
Carriere said that there is a per kilometre transportation assistance subsidy where no bus service is available.
“There are a significant number of families who are receiving transportation assistance across the School District, where the Policy dictates that bus service should not be provided because of the small number of students who would be served,” he said.