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No free ride in SD 60

Busing will cost $250 per student

It's official: rural students won't be getting a free ride next year.

School District 60 announced this week that the much-discussed transportation fees would be implemented starting this fall for students who use the bus to get to school.

The cost will be $250 per student, but the cost will cap at $625 per family, meaning that even a family sending three or four children to school on a bus will only pay the maximum $625.

Additionally, any families that pay before July 15 will save an additional 20 per cent. The cost in that case will be $200 per student, capping at $500.

This cost will come down on anyone who plans on taking a bus to get to school, mostly rural students who travel a larger distance, or special needs students in town. The district does not provide standard in-town busing.

Doug Boyd, the board's secretary-treasurer, singled out Hudson's Hope, Taylor, and Clearview as examples of regions where this will affect residents the most.

"Those small municipalities or regional districts will have some degree of impact," he said.

He added that any instances where the cost was unable to be paid would be met with on a case-by-case basis.

"We will work with communities in that to assist in any difficulties," said Boyd.

"This has been a very difficult decision for the board to make," said Linda Stringer, trustee for Zone 1. "This is not to be taken lightly and we'll be doing everything we can to eliminate it if we can, and to continue to pursue the minister of education in regards to allocation of the money ... it's unfair."

The fees come as a result of the province changing the transportation line item to a student location factor several years ago. It was a change that was phased in over the past three years, and lost School District 60 $541,000 that they would normally get.

"In addition to that [$541,000], we are already spending about $200,000 more than what our revenue was, so with the loss we're looking at three quarters of a million dollars to maintain what we currently have," said Boyd. "That's what we're trying to do through adjustments and deficiencies, as well as the busing fee."

Boyd said they have been holding off on the implementation of the fee in hopes it would not come to this point. The board had considered starting the fee last year, but did not go through with it.

"Our local MLA in their election had promised that they would work on our behalf to try to not have any charges levied to students in this region. He was unsuccessful," said Boyd.

"Our discussions with the ministry to date have been unsuccessful. We are now facing the full impact as of September and so the board had to make a very difficult decision." He added that they are still going to try to work with the ministry on eliminating this fee.

Even with the fee for transit-takers, it won't cover the shortfall, said board chair Jaret Thompson.

"We anticipate covering close to half. We're still finding other ways in our budget and so forth; we're not putting it all on parents."

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