October 20th, 2020

City’s school busing decision concerning, perplexing


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.

Jennifer Prosser

Lethbridge

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zulu1

Since the city is the only municipality in North America taking on such responsibilities, it seems that the study’s recommendation to place the responsibility back where it belongs, with the school boards, is a logical and responsible move. In my opinion the city’s decision is the correct one.

George McCrea

The school boards paid for the insurance and liability. The writer of this letter is right on the money. I disagree with you. What about liability at the Airport, that the City wholeheartedly accepted. Thats on us as the only insurer.

sdvlpv

Zulu1 is right..
Mr. McCrea, the City of Lethbridge negotiates and pays for the insurance on the school bus fleet, as well as general liability insurance on its operations. The school system would, hopefully, reimburse the city for insurance costs through the busing contract service fees. With little or no information available through the recent operational review report from the city, nor the school busing contracts, it is difficult to form an informed and rational opinion when information is lacking. The news media is adapt at sensationalizing, while lacking at providing any substance, if in fact, anything of substance is even being made available. All good for getting the public fired up but…….

George McCrea

All of that for me to confirm the school boards do in fact
reimburse the city for insurance costs. In fact
they reimburse the City for all costs. Maintenance, radios,
administration, salaries of drivers and on. At the end of the day if the City bills
3 million the boards pay 3 million. Liability is a red herring
when you consider the liability we all took on without discussion
when the city took over the airport.

sdvlpv

At the end of the day, it is a contract. TheCity provides a contract service and, if the City elects to discontinue the contract, the school boards can contract elsewhere. A contract service other than the City is still a contract, subject to negotiation and/or a tender process. If costs go up (which begs the question why, private contract includes a profit motive but the private contract should be lower as the City pays union rates) it still places the costs where they should be. Again, without full access to all pertinent information one cannot determine if, in fact, the City recovers all costs: nevertheless, school busing ought to be a school service not a municipal service. Interestingly and, again, without all the information the liability risk is unknown, however, like you, I too suspect that issue is a red herring. You seem to be hung up a bit on the Airport issue. Hopefully at some stage of the ongoing Review Process, the facts of all that entails the Airport ownership and operation will come out – if I were you, I would not hold my breath. The first stage report is fraught with black lines of redaction, do not expect much better in future phase reports.

George McCrea

The city recovers all costs. Liability and risk are an excuse.
However, liability for the watch program and the airport which IMO attract far higher risk and liability are no problem.

sdvlpv

lol

George McCrea