Free ride over

School bus system is one area where efficiencies could be looked at in District 69 (Qualicum)

The board of School District 69 (Qualicum) is in the unenviable situation of trying to come up with ways to save more than $500,000 in their 2012 budget. They are now finally realizing the dilemma facing their predecessors prior to last November’s municipal election — and why they actually had entertained a report that listed the possible closure of Kwalikum Secondary School as one way to save money in the face of declining enrolment here.

Now, a new school board of trustees face big decisions in order to balance their books. A decline in students means less money from the province — except that this year only, B.C. has pledged to maintain local funding levels. Still, thanks to contract issues, rising costs of service and more, the board faces a half-million deficit.

The money has to come from somewhere. The trustees are proposing many options, including eliminating extra-curricular bus transportation.

That will only go so far.

So, how about full elimination of all school bus transportation in District 69? It’s not a required function of a school board to provide this service. And, compared with in-class education service and staffing, it might be the only palatable large service cut — if people thought logically.

But they don’t.

Apart from the resulting job losses and the grief that would cause, parents for the most part won’t abide driving their children to and from school — unless the school day is changed to a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. session. That could allow the board to shorten the school calendar, using those extra hours to make up for it.

Barring that, maybe the district will start charging more to ride the buses — and allow more students to get on board.

It’s unlikely the trustees will eliminate the buses. The parent outcry would be worse than if they cut teachers.

Yet, the free ride in this school district is surely over.

— editorial by Steven Heywood


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