File photo

Qualicum district works to upgrade transportation options for First Nations students

Two additional bus routes planned for SD69 schedule

School District 69 (Qualicum) has joined the Ministry of Education’s initiative to provide transportation for First Nations students living on-reserve to get to and from public schools.

The new B.C. Tripartite Education Agreement Supporting First Nation Student Success identifies this need as important element of this initiative. In SD69, getting students to school is a major concern, with lack of transporation a barrier for some.

Boards of education and First Nations are mandated to develop a Joint First Nation Student Transportation Plan to address students transportation needs. SD69 worked with the Qualicum and Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nations and has come up with a plan to enhance the services they provide students.

The guiding principles used to establish the plan included safety, available transporation for extracurricular activities, sports and sporting events, no walk limits, the shortest ride possible to be implements and wherever possible and that there will be no highway pickups or dropoffs.

READ MORE: Qualicum district’s interim superintendent will continue to end of school year

“Our greatest challenge is in supporting every child of Snaw-Naw-As and Qualicum ancestry in their attending school, engaging in learning, engaging in the life of school beyond the classroom, and the truly feeling part of the schools that they attend,” said secretary-treasurer Ron Amos in his report to the district board.

One problem is the current school bus schedules cannot be flexible or responsive enough to give children the door-to-door service they need. Amos said they have to modify their transporation system to adapt to the needs of the children.

“We have too many children for who the absence of this more customized transportation service is keeping them from school, or at best keeping them from attending the schools that they need to, when they need to, to have a full and empowering educational experience,” said Amos.

The new plan is to pick up children living on-reserve as part of SD69 regular service. They will create two additional routes to the SD69 bus schedule, one for the north and one for the south. Two smaller 18-passenger buses costing $55,000 each will be purchased, as well annual cost of driver wages and benefits totalling $65,000, and operating costs of $25,000 will be factored in.

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