Last ditch school bus funding attempt fails

Delta parents will have to find transportation options for children

Delta’s parents will have to find alternate transportation after a meeting between the school district and the province failed to yield fruit.

Delta School District Chair Laura Dixon travelled to Victoria last Wednesday (July 24) with senior staff to meet with Education Minister Peter Fassbender about the province’s change to the transportation funding formula, which resulted in a 47 per cent reduction of Delta’s budget.

Dixon said she was told the reason for restructuring the bus funding formula was that it would serve most of the needs of most of the districts. Fassbender reportedly told Dixon some of those districts, such as Delta, haven’t fit the formula.

The issue will now be sent to the province’s technical review committee, but it doesn’t meet until well into the fall and no date has  yet been set.

“That means there will be no review and/or any alternate structure of the grant in time for this school year,” said Dixon, adding it didn’t come as a surprise given some of the discussion Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington has had publicly in the legislature.

“The minister says they’re now taking another look at the overall funding formula, and I think it will make a difference,” said Huntington last week. “We’ll have to wait and see what their proposals are and go from there.”

Delta faces challenges that other school districts do not, with three distinct communities separated and interspersed with thousands of hectares of active farming which results in a low population density.

“Anyone can see that Delta isn’t an urban area,” said Huntington. “If we lose our school bus service, there’s no transit–not in the agricultural areas. And students can’t be expected to cross our highways twice a day. It’s simply not safe.”

Even if the technical review committee decides to change the grants at some further date, Dixon said it won’t include new funding overall in the province.

“They stressed to us that it would be unlikely that they would start taking money away from other districts,” she said. “They have just arrived at this new funding formula, they believe that it serves the best interests of the majority of districts.”

That doesn’t mean the Delta School District isn’t exploring other options. Dixon said she has a meeting with TransLink in the beginning of August, while some Boundary Bay parents will rent the district’s Academy Bus to transport their children to Beach Grove Elementary. That plan may include drop-offs to South Park Elementary and South Delta Secondary as well.

“The number one thing we’re encouraging parents to do is to make sure they have arrangements made for September for their families,” said Dixon, adding if they’re unable to do so they can apply to see if there are open spots on the buses that transport special needs and disabled students.

But since special needs buses aren’t available in every catchment area, Dixon said it’s not a solution for most parents.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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