April 22nd, 2024

City leaving school bus business


By Tim Kalinowski on March 13, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

The City of Lethbridge will officially be out of the school busing business by Monday.
The Lethbridge School Division and Holy Spirit Catholic School Division announced this week they were ready for full transition to its new private school transport contractor, Southland Transportation Ltd., a few months ahead of schedule.
“We are very pleased with the work that has been done by all parties to ensure that this transition has been so smooth for our students,” said Holy Spirit Board Chair Bob Spitzig in a statement released to the media. “We certainly expect that this service to our families will only improve as our partnership continues to strengthen.”
“Lethbridge School Division is extremely pleased to partner with Southland Transportation, a company with a proven track record of providing quality school bus service,” added Lethbridge School Division Board Chair Christine Light later in the same joint statement.
And while the statement went on to heap praise on Southland, which is a successful, national school bus transport provider, the laudatory tone did contrast with remarks made in late 2019 by the school divisions when the City first informed them it would no longer be providing the service following revelations from the KPMG report that Lethbridge was the only municipality of its size directly involved in school transportation.
At the time, local school divisions and the City’s transit union said it would lead to higher busing costs for parents and a loss of public dollars into a for-profit enterprise.
Eventually the City and the school divisions reached a deal on a one year extension until July 31, 2021 to allow for an easier transition away from the City offering this service. That formal transition took place this week as the City officially handed off the role to Southland Transportation.
“Southland Transportation would like to thank the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge School Division and Holy Spirit Catholic School Division for the seamless transition of routes over the past few months,” said Craig Loose, Regional Director for Southland. “We look forward to transporting Lethbridge School Division and Holy Spirit Catholic School Division students safely home each day, and becoming strong supporters of the Lethbridge community.”

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buckwheat

The statement, Lethbridge was the only municipality doing it is an excuse. For what, I am still scratching my head. The reason Spearman gave at the time was “liability”. The school boards were paying the liability insurance. Further there were 52 plus dedicated drivers who dutifully did their jobs day in and day out incident free who were literally “tossed under the bus”. These were union jobs where dues were being paid and there was no hue and cry from the defenders of the “little guys”, namely Shannon Phillips or Marie Fitzpatrick to protect those union jobs. Once again those with the most responsibility get the shaft while those making the decisions try to make themselves look good. There was absolutely no need to fix something that wasn’t broken. Best of luck to Southland.

bluegrass

Very true. I have a friend who has been driving school bus for 30 years, and was not even considered by Southland, despite having a flawless record. Meanwhile, Southland has ads popping up on social media looking for drivers to join their team. Where is the equity and fairness in this transition? Council should have made it a condition of the transfer that these people who have given exemplary past service be given top priority for employment by the new contractor.