Administration at Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 have been wrestling with a few school bus issues this year — from parents at Sheep Creek upset at the cancellation of a bus route, to parents from TaTa Creek concerned about over crowding.
Now a Kimberley parent is questioning why the Board is contacting parents and asking them to designate whether their child is a courtesy rider or not.
Rochelle Corneliuson says she doesn’t like the term ‘courtesy rider’.
“As far as I’m concerned that means your child can be booted off the bus and forced to walk,” she said. “Don’t they have a right to transportation to school?”
Corneliuson says she was surprised to learn that in fact students don’t have that right.
The Board’s transportation policy states that “Where there are sufficient students to justify the service and where road conditions are suitable for school buses, school bus transportation may be provided for students who reside within the school district boundary and who live a considerable distance from the nearest school.”
That distance is four kilometres.
“Annually, at the beginning of each school year, parents of students who are not eligible for school bus service and would like their children to ride a school bus are to request permission in writing (i.e. email) from the Operations Supervisor for their child to ride the school bus as a courtesy rider,” says Steve Jackson, Director of Operations for SD6. “In Kimberley, we have been contacting parents and asking them to do this, because it is a requirement of Board Policy 3600 and many parents were dropping off or sending their children to bus stops without the appropriate policy process being followed. In these calls we have been taking the time to explain the policy and answer questions. Across our district there are hundreds of courtesy ride requests and to manage this across our system we rely on the cooperation of parents.
“Once we receive the courtesy ride requests every effort is made to expedite processing, however these requests may not be approved until September 30th. Until approval is granted, parents/guardians must provide transportation for their child.”
Corneliuson says that most Kimberley students are within the four K limit, but not all.
“When Blarchmont School was closed we were allowed to choose which school we would send our kids to,” she said.
If you send your child to Marysville even if Lindsay Park is closer, your child is considered a courtesy rider, she says.
That has caused some confusion, Jackson agrees.
“In Kimberley there are no identified catchment areas for Marysville and Lindsay Park Elementary schools.
“Our transportation policy identifies an “eligible” bus rider as follows: “A student is considered to be eligible if his or her home address is at least 4.0 km (Kindergarten to Gr. 3) or 4.8 km (Gr. 4 to Gr. 12) from the nearest bus stop or the nearest age and/or program appropriate school.” For example, if a family lives 4.4 km away from Lindsay Park Elementary and 5 km away from Marysville the students would be considered “eligible riders” when riding a bus to Lindsay Park Elementary and if the parents chose to send their children to Marysville Elementary they would be considered “courtesy riders” because they are not riding to their nearest age and/or program appropriate school.”
However, Corneliuson says that parents have no choice because Lindsay Park is at capacity.
Jackson says in that case the policy changes.
“The current situation is further compounded by the fact that there are some families who are live closer to Lindsay Park than Marysville, but who could not attend Lindsay Park because the school was at capacity at a particular Grade level. When this occurs the School District considers these children to be eligible riders because the nearest school is not accessible to them.”
Jackson also says that currently, there is room for all primary aged courtesy riders on the current bus routes.
But Corneliuson believes that high school students shouldn’t have to worry about being told there’s no room either.
“If you live in Lower Blarchmont towards the end of Warren Avenue, that’s a 45 minute walk, in cold weather, lots of hills, and if it’s snowed, sometimes the sidewalks aren’t even cleared yet.
“It needs to be a right to ride the bus to go to school.”