Reinstate Our Bus Routes
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Residents of Kimberley, BC have serious concerns over recent decisions made by Rocky Mountain School District #6 regarding our community’s bus system for school-aged children. We’re calling on our community and provincial leaders to come together to reinstate our bus services and look at other methods to save money without jeopardizing children’s safety and parents’ financial well-being.
Starting September 2017, any child living within four kilometres of their school will not have access to a bus. (Note that this measurement was also done as the crow flies so in many cases, actual walking or driving distance is further than 4km.) The expectation is that they’re within walking distance and the burden has been passed to the parents to either allow their kids to walk or make arrangements to get them to and from school. In urban centers and more condensed communities, this arrangement may not be of a lot of concern. But it simply doesn’t work for several reasons in our community. Here are two examples:
1) If children living in the Forest Crowne area of Kimberley were to walk to school, most of that walk would be on a busy, major highway. There are also no residences or businesses along much of the highway and it’s very common to encounter wildlife, including bears, moose, and deer with fawns. Here is a video of the drive: https://youtu.be/9ZB0GsdSDlg This is about a 40-minute walk (one way) for a fit adult.
2) Similar to Forest Crowne, if children living near the ski hill were required to walk to school (Lindsay Park), they would also be walking along some of the busiest roadways in town or remote pathways where wildlife encounters are also common. Here is the video of the drive: https://youtu.be/Hd0FkobrFHM This is about a 45-minute walk (one way) for a fit adult, as the walk is up and down a mountain, not on flat terrain.
Kimberley is a mountain town. We always have wild animals at large in our community (including bears, deer, moose, cougars, and coyotes), we have a lot of steep, long inclines that can be challenging for younger children to walk, and we have long winters with heavy volumes of snow. Many areas don't have sidewalks or proper walking paths along roadways, and visibility is a serious issue in the winter when snow banks are taller than most children. In the winter, it can also be dark out when children would be expected to start walking to school. So they would be walking in the dark, essentially in the wilderness.
Additionally, we all consider Kimberley to be a very safe place to raise our children. But we are not immune to the risk of child abduction. If children are walking through remote areas on a regular schedule, day in and day out, it makes them extremely vulnerable. Abduction is another serious concern that should not be dismissed from this discussion.
It is absolutely not reasonable for children to be walking to school from some of the areas where bus services have been cut. Their personal safety would be seriously at risk.
Being a small community with limited services, we don't have public transportation. The only option that parents have is to drive their kids to and from school. When children are leaving school around 2pm and their parents work until 5pm or later, that poses challenges. Many parents commute to Cranbrook and other outlying communities for work so they simply can’t dash out to leave for a few minutes. We’re also an entrepreneurial community filled with small businesses, which means that some parents may have to close their places of business in order to go pick up their kids. The economic implications for families could be huge.
Finally, we have a child care shortage in our community, and that includes after school care. It’s already been challenging enough for parents in previous years and now with the bus changes, even if a parent has after school care lined up, they likely have no means to get their child to care. Courtesy rides are no longer allowed. So children can no longer be bussed to after school care. One after school care program in the community has already been cancelled because there is no way for the children to get to the facility.
The Marysville Elementary School offers an after school care program, but it can only accept a limited number of kids and the program is full and waitlisted. We do not have programs and facilities here like larger centers and when only one adult is providing after school care at their home, it is not feasible for them to be providing transportation in order to pick up kids after school.
We’re concerned that the children in our communities are going to be put in unsafe situations and parents are going to have their livelihoods affected due to the bus changes. We’re asking for support on this issue and calling on our leaders to reconsider their decision and reinstate our bus service, including courtesy rides, so that the children in our community are able to safely get to and from school and after care programs. That, or present another reasonable solution.
Parents are also aware that our school district has made these cuts due to budget concerns. Therefore, we are bringing this matter to the attention of our MLA and the provincial government, as they’re responsible for ensuring that our province’s school districts are adequately funded. The bus service cuts are simply unacceptable and the situation needs to be resolved.
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