As of Oct. 15, four school bus stops are scheduled to be eliminated as the Cowichan Valley school district deals with too many riders due to increased enrolment.
The changes will affect 91 riders at Cowichan Secondary School and 13 students at Bench Elementary School.
For Cowichan Secondary, the stops to be dropped include: the Cairnsmore Transit Stop, Cowichan Lake Road at Avondale Place, and Sherman Road at Truesdale Road. For Bench, the bus will no longer stop at McGill Road and Willow Glen.
The bus stops will be eliminated effective Oct. 15 to permit parents and students wishing to make other arrangements enough time to do so.
These changes are being communicated to affected parents via individual emailed letters.
One important thing to note, according to Mike Russell, SD79 communications manager, is that “any Quamichan student who catches the bus at the above stops will still get picked up and bused to school. These changes only effect CSS students (and Bench). Also, no students with diverse needs are affected, they are still provided busing under a separate arrangement.”
A report prepared by Secretary-Treasurer Jason Sandquist and Schools Superintendent Robyn Gray for the Sept. 24 Board of Education committee meeting said, “The School District runs a transportation system comprised of 32 buses and 105 individual routes. At the end of June, 2019 there were 4,100 students registered to ride a bus. After an unexpected influx of registrations in September this number has now increased to 4,450 students. The capacity of the current transportation system has now been exceeded.”
He reminded the trustees that they have a policy which states the district “will provide bus services to students living outside of the walk limits and attending their home school and, where space on existing routes exist, to students attending a school of choice or a District program. Students must be registered with the Transportation Department before being transported on a District bus.”
These “walk limits” mean greater than two kilometres for students attending elementary schools and greater than 3.5 km for students attending secondary schools.
Within walk limits, transportation may be provided for safety reasons, which may include busy highway crossings or roads with poor visibility.
The report says, “In order to continue to operate within the current bus capacities, the district will need to eliminate four bus stops that currently service students that reside within the established walk limits. These include: an elementary school stop that is 1.5 km from the school; and three secondary school stops that are 3.17, 1.8 and 2.77 km from the school.”
Before making that decision, district officials evaluated the four stops for safety concerns and determined the change was “appropriate for students.”