A group of concerned parents frustrated with the Calgary Board of Education’s (CBE) decision to end yellow bus service at their school has taken matters into their own hands and chartered a bus to shuttle their children to and from class.
“We had parents meet to discuss what could we do and it spread by word of mouth,” said Amory Hamilton-Henry, whose 10-year-old son goes to Wilfrid Laurier School in southeast Calgary.
The CBE confirmed in June 2017 that it would cancel yellow bus service at five alternative schools, including Wilfrid Laurier, after a motion to reinstate the service was rejected.
At the time, the board said the service cuts were the result of a $38-million shortfall.
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“The option being suggested by CBE was Calgary Transit at that time,” Hamilton-Henry said. “I don’t perceive it as safe for a 10-year-old child.”
Hamilton-Henry said about 25 parents initially got together and approached Southland Transportation to learn how much it would cost to organize a bus route in their communities. They decided to go ahead with the plan and soon more parents signed up.
They now have 61 parents and 66 children on board. Hamilton-Henry said Friday they’ve created a company and opened a bank account to collect money from the parents in order to pay Southland.
The route services five communities, including Redstone, Skyview Ranch, Cityscape, SaddleRidge and Martindale. It takes roughly one hour to shuttle all the students to Wilfrid Laurier School.
It cost $1,200 per child, whereas public transportation would have cost only $700 per head.
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But Hamilton-Henry said parents decided the hefty price-tag is worth it for their children’s safety and peace of mind.
They’ve also created a message group to let the parents know if all kids are on board and if the bus is running late.
The CBE said in a statement that it is “pleased to see communities working together.”
“We’ve heard from schools that some parents and students have come together in different ways to solve their transportation challenges, which range from developing a bus buddy system to a walking school bus or a carpool network, or hiring their own bus charter service.”
However, Hamilton-Henry suggests the school board could have worked together with parents of kids attending the five alternative schools to find a solution that worked for everyone.
“Could we have tailored the consultation process to these five schools – to the parents there – and said, “This is what it might cost you if we were to work with Southland to get busing for your child? Would you be willing to pay it? That question has not been asked by CBE,” Hamilton-Henry said.
“We’re saying CBE probably could have secured a better deal with Southland through a volume-discount process than we could with one bus. But they’re not at the table.”