Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division has announced the expansion of the their urban school transportation service.
© Daily Herald file photo.
After years of providing busing services to just rural and high school students, the school division says it’s going to start operating bus routes for pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 schools as well.
“This is a service that we believe will help our students and their families and we’re just excited to be able to provide that after several years of examining it,” Saskatchewan Rivers director of education Robert Bratvold says. “It’s something that we felt was going to be helpful to our kids and their success.”
Bratvold says they’ve had problems with attendance, especially for students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs. After receiving feedback from parents and school principals, the division decided it was in the best interests of the students to make the change.
“We run our pre-kindergarten programs in various schools in the city, and when you have kids that young often they’ll have siblings who are even younger,” Bratvold says. “The parent has difficulty leaving them at home and trying to get (the student) to school, so that’s been an issue. That was a big part of it, feedback from parents saying that this was a challenge that they were facing in getting their children to school.”
Bratvold says they wanted to start providing busing for younger students earlier, but couldn’t because the provincial government was reviewing the transportation part of their funding distribution model. However, eventually they decided they couldn’t wait any longer, and local school principals were pleased to see the change.
“Some of these little guys are coming from a fair distance because they’re coming in the attendance area that they live in,” Queen Mary Community Public School principal Mark Hastings says. “Well, if it’s a kindergarten or Grade 1 student and they live 15 blocks and it’s minus 30 or 40, it’s pretty hard if parents don’t have a vehicle to get their kids to school.”
Hastings says it’s important for students to get into a routine in order to succeed, especially at a young age. Irregular attendance makes that difficult, if not impossible, so he’s happy to see a start to urban busing.
“Bus transportation obviously is a big deal to get kids to school,” he says. “Especially when it’s cold.”
Of course, purchasing and operating an additional fleet of buses isn’t going to be cheap, but Bratvold says this is about putting students first. The initial costs are unknown because the division hasn’t decided on specific routes yet, but they do plan on purchasing additional school buses. The funds are expected to come from the division’s reserves and savings account.
“We know that there is going to be a cost and that’s difficult in the budget that we’ve received, but we see this as a student first (issue),” Bratvold says.
Starting next school year, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students who live more than 200 metres from their school will receive transportation. For students in Grades 1-8, the distance jumps to 400 metres.
Current busing plans for students in French Immersion programs or attending any of the division’s three high schools will not be interrupted.
“We know our system is safe and reliable,” Bratvold says. “If we can include more kids in that system I think it’s a benefit to the students and families.”