School bus

Even though classes are set to resume on June 1, Central Okanagan school trustees are being advised by district staff to cancel all school buses for the remainder of the year.

A proposed doubling of school bus fees in the Central Okanagan would still see parents pay only one-third of the cost of running the service.

The subsidy provided by taxpayers would still cover two-thirds of the program’s cost even if busing fees rise to $450 from $225.

Kelowna area school trustees on Wednesday considered a raft of proposals aimed at overhauling the busing system.

Along with the possible fee increase, key proposals include lowering the walk limits for elementary and middle-school students so more kids can ride a yellow bus, adding more designated pickup and drop-off points, and advancing the registration deadline to May 31 to avoid the last-minute snafus that created chaos last fall.

Although an exhaustive public consultation process found parental support for shifting high school kids from yellow buses to regular transit, no such change is planned for the 2020-21 school year.

About 5,500 students ride school buses in the Central Okanagan.

This year, the program will cost $4.7 million to operate, but fees provide only $900,000 in revenue, or 20% of total costs, so a taxpayer subsidy of $3.2 million is required.

Next year, it’s anticipated the school bus service will cost $5.1 million. Doubling the student ridership fee would generate $1.8 million in revenue, covering 33% of total costs. But that would still leave $3.3 million, or 67% of total costs, that would would be covered by the taxpayer subsidy.

Trustees with Central Okanagan Public Schools have historically chosen to provide a much more extensive school bus system than what provincial regulations require, and considerably beyond what provincial funding will cover.

To make up busing costs not covered by fees, trustees must use public money that would otherwise go directly to in-school programs and services that would benefit students.

Trustees in other school districts take the view that it is generally a parent’s responsibility to get their children to school.