By Letter to the Editor on December 14, 2019.
As a parent and a citizen, I am concerned about the city council’s decision to end the current school bus service arrangement between the city and the school boards.
The current cost recovery arrangement ensures that the school boards are able to offer this critical service as efficiently as possible. And while we are one of the few jurisdictions with this model, it operates within budget and minimal to no cost on families that rely on school busing.
The motivation around liability concerns for the City is perplexing. Both school division superintendents have made it very clear to the council and to the public that they are wanting to sit down and find a solution to the liability concerns. But regardless, even if the worst were to happen, is it not City roads the buses drive on? City infrastructure they depend on? A great deal of the liability is already on the City – to act as if the families depending on busing are oblivious to this seems shortsighted.
This decision means that instead of funding for busing staying with the City, employing ATU drivers and covering the administration costs to operate this service, it will now be paid to a third-party contractor with added administrative burden on our school boards. A for-profit business that will result in high fees – fees that will be paid for by parents. Fees that will impact families and possibly add to existing financial strain.
This decision seems to be ignoring the economic environment we find ourselves. The provincial government cuts will result in job losses in the biggest employment sectors in the city – health services and post-secondary institutions. To compound that by impacting 60 school bus drivers who currently drive school bus routes feels deeply unfair.
This decision came quickly, and seemingly without consultation. As a parent I have heard from our school’s principal and the two school board superintendents, but very little from our elected school board trustees on this issue.
I am disappointed that the city council and the elected school board trustees have chosen to not consult parents on this change – a change made with little warning and a very short lead time.
I urge city council to respond to the request by both school division superintendents and go back to the table to find a solution that ensures this service continues to operate in collaboration.