School bus schedule a headache for Alberni parents

Less money for busing equals fewer routes, fewer buses and limited options, School District 70 Superintendent Cam Pinkerton said.

Jason Goovaerts says that his son and daughter shouldn’t have to stand beside a busy Highway 4 to be picked up by an overcrowded bus and brought to school.

But less money for busing equals fewer routes, fewer buses and limited options, School District 70 Superintendent Cam Pinkerton said.

Last year, Goovaerts’ children used to board the school bus at Winters Road, which lays just off Lakeshore Road and was a five-minute walk from their home.

That changed this year however. Now, the children walk a kilometre to their new stop at the corner of Lakeshore Road and Highway 4—which is in an 80-kilometre-per-hour traffic zone.

The move is a safety hazard and doesn’t make logistic sense, Goovaerts said. It’s difficult for large trucks to slow down for a school bus. And impatient drivers don’t wait for the bus and pass it instead, despite warning signals.

Goovaerts said that a better approach would be for the bus to drive another 30 seconds down the road. The bus could turn off at the former West Bay Hotel then come back up Lakeshore Road, then exit back onto the highway.  “That makes more sense because most of the families live along there,” he said.

Another issue Goovaerts has is the increase in the number of students riding buses. “The kids say that it’s too overcrowded and that there are three and four to a seat,” he said.

Previously, there were two school buses that serviced Sproat Lake. “Now there’s just one, and it covers Lakeshore Road, Faber Road, Stirling Arm, McCoy Lake, and Great Central Lake,” he said.

The district also didn’t do a good enough job raising public awareness about the bus scheduling changes, Goovaerts said.

“My kids went to their stop on the first day and there was no bus. My wife noticed the scheduling change when she checked the school district’s website,” he said.

The Goovaerts aren’t alone. A group of parents complained to trustees about the new school bus system at School District 70’s Sept. 10 meeting.

It’s the trial run of the new system and there are some wrinkles to be ironed out yet, Pinkerton said. But one thing is clear: “We can’t go back to the way it was. That just isn’t possible,” he said.

The roots of the school busing issue go back a year and a half when the district announced that it was going to receive less money from the Ministry of Education for transportation.

District officials announced earlier this year that it would be taking steps to make up for the pending $750,000 budget hit. “But the school closure issue got the headlines,” Pinkerton said.

Now, there are three fewer buses running in Port Alberni; no bus in Bamfield; two fewer buses in Ucluelet/Tofino.

The district is also no longer allowing cross-boundary pickups-dropoffs, nor school of choice ones, he said. “We just don’t have the ability to accommodate that anymore.”

Pinkerton said he’s aware of the Goovaerts’ issue. The driver stops and follows all traffic rules, he said. But remedying the matter creates a chain reaction.

Driving further down the road and turning may not seem like much at first. “But we get 20 of these calls and making those changes ends up being cumulative: you can’t change one part of the system without having to make changes to all the other parts,” Pinkerton said.

The district is aware that there are particular issues in rural areas, such as animal contact, narrow roads, and no lighting, he said.

Trustees and staff will be listening to concerns from a parents group on Thursday. “We can look at the runs. We have some flexibility but we have to be mindful of the whole system,” Pinkerton said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

Just Posted

Port Alberni’s bylaw department shifts from reactive to proactive

8.5 times more files being completed by bylaw officers

Port Alberni’s West Coast Rangers hold rendezvous

Three-day event featured historical re-enactment

Port Alberni Port Authority talks logistics for cruise ship visit

Some restrictions for pedestrians, boaters will be in place

Port Alberni’s ‘Army of Problem Solvers’ to the rescue

Facebook group gathers people who just want to help their neighbours

Hurricane Katrina inspires Alberni author’s new novel

Jacqueline Swann brings message of climate change to life with story of fictional journalist

600 new campsites coming to provincial parks and recreation sites across B.C.

Tourism Minister announced half of the new spots to 13 most popular provincial parks

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Court to rule on B.C.’s pipeline permit law in crucial case for Trans Mountain

A panel of B.C. Court of Appeal judges has been mulling B.C.’s constitutional reference cas

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Most Read