Ticket to ride

The Daily Courier - - CANADA -

The Cen­tral Okana­gan School Dis­trict has agreed on con­sis­tency for its user fees for bus stu­dents. All stu­dents will be charged $200 an­nu­ally to ride the bus to and from school, ef­fec­tive Sept. 1.

In the past, there was a twotier sys­tem. Those liv­ing more than 4.6 kilo­me­tre away from the school rode free, ev­ery­one else paid $250 an­nu­ally.

As board chair­woman Moyra Bax­ter of Peach­land ob­served, “if you live on the side of a moun­tain” it’s more dif­fi­cult to walk to school than those who have paved side­walks.

There’s a slid­ing scale for fam­i­lies with more than one child and fam­i­lies who can’t af­ford the user fee may qui­etly re­quest a hard­ship case.

This jour­nal­ist was some­what taken aback be­cause I’d never heard of hav­ing to pay to send your kids to school.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Kevin Kaardal said “most boards” charge for the ser­vice. Among those who don’t are neigh­bour­ing Okana­gan Skaha, the Ver­non School Dis­trict, and Okana­gan Sim­ilka­meen.

The $200 cov­ers only part of the ex­pense and with the user fee and govern­ment fund­ing, Bax­ter said the board ex­pects to use the sur­plus to of­fer other routes and bet­ter ser­vice.

Bax­ter also notes that par­ents ap­pre­ci­ate the ser­vice more when they have to pay a fee.

It still doesn’t pass the smell test.

We all can’t live in an ur­ban area. Ru­ral peo­ple grow our food. It’s pe­nal­iz­ing those who don’t live within walk­ing dis­tance of a school.

If other boards can find the money for bus­ing (es­pe­cially Oliver/Osoy­oos with a large per­cent­age of stu­dents need­ing the ser­vice), why can’t a large board like Cen­tral Okana­gan?

User-pay is of­ten a fair sys­tem.

Cen­tral Okana­gan has charged for bus­ing since 2011 and Bax­ter said most peo­ple sup­port the user fee.

But, could this be the start of down­load­ing fees onto the backs of par­ents? If no­body raises a stink, what could be com­ing next?

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