Par­ents get­ting par­tial re­bate for stu­dents forced to ride city tran­sit

Calgary Herald - - CITY - BILL KAUFMANN BKauf­mann@post­media.com Twit­ter/Bil­lKauf­man­njrn

Some CBE stu­dents who lost yel­low school bus ser­vice will see their fee to ride Cal­gary Tran­sit to class halved by a provin­cial sub­sidy.

The par­ents of 1,300 stu­dents who are at­tend­ing five al­ter­na­tive schools or live more than 2.4 kilo- me­tres from their school will be re­im­bursed up to $365 and will pay $335 to ride Cal­gary Tran­sit buses, the same fee charged to those who ride the yel­low buses.

It fol­lows con­sid­er­able pub­lic out­cry from par­ents whose trans­porta­tion op­tions were dis­rupted and fears younger chil­dren would be rid­ing nu­mer­ous buses to school.

But a stu­dent ad­vo­cate who’s run­ning for Cal­gary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion trustee in Wards 6-7 said the process has been selec­tive and doesn’t re­solve the plight of many fam­i­lies.

“It doesn’t ad­dress the kids who had to be pulled out of their home schools, who couldn’t make their tran­sit work,” said Lisa Davis, founder of the group Kids Come First.

“This is a Band-Aid so­lu­tion to a prob­lem the min­is­ter cre­ated him­self when he failed to con­sult with the school board.”

Davis was re­fer­ring to the provin­cial gov­ern­ment’s Bill 1, which is meant to elim­i­nate bus­ing trans­porta­tion fees for stu­dents who at­tend des­ig­nated schools or who live 2.4 kilo­me­tres from that school. But those at­tend­ing al­ter­na­tive schools were told they will have to pay the $335, and even a $700 charge, with hun­dreds of stu­dents be­ing forced off school buses and onto Cal­gary Tran­sit.

Davis said some of the 2,000 stu­dents who were told last spring they would be shifted from yel­low to city buses this school year due to the leg­is­la­tion are be­ing left out of the re­bate.

“(Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter David) Eggen de­cides which stu­dents in Cal­gary get bus ser­vice,” she said.

Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion in­structed the CBE to fo­cus the re­bate on the 1,300 stu­dents in Grades 6-9 at­tend­ing five al­ter­na­tive pro­gram schools, said board spokes­woman Joanne An­der­son.

“These were schools that were iden­ti­fied for that ... it’s the di­rec­tion from the min­is­ter,” she said.

“It’s part of an eval­u­a­tion we do ev­ery year.”

She said the CBE planned to move 1,500 stu­dents to Cal­gary Tran­sit this year, “so there are an ad­di­tional 200 or so stu­dents from other com­mu­ni­ties that have tran­si­tioned.”

It’s un­cer­tain if those 200 stu­dents would qual­ify for a re­bate, added An­der­son.

The CBE said that ori­en­ta­tion ses­sions for the new tran­sit ar­range­ments were held this month and in Au­gust, deal­ing with is­sues such as trip plan­ning, safety and fares.

It’s not cer­tain if the re­bate pro­gram will re­turn for the 2018-19 school year, she said.

A spokesper­son for Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion wasn’t able to com­ment.

This is a Band-Aid so­lu­tion to a prob­lem the min­is­ter cre­ated him­self when he failed to con­sult with the school board.

LARRY WONG/ FILES

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter David Eggen has come un­der fire from par­ents over Bill 1. “Eggen de­cides which stu­dents in Cal­gary get bus ser­vice,” says Lisa Davis, founder of the group Kids Come First.

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