After a public outcry about new busing fees in the Vernon school district, including an online petition opposing the new higher fees for many bus riders, the school district has changed course.
Currently, the majority of riders pay only a $25 registration fee.
Originally the school district had planned to jump to $200 next year. However, on Wednesday night, the school board rolled that back to $110.
It’s much less than the original increase but still more than families are paying now.
Those considered courtesy riders or not attending their local catchment school will pay more. Those students will pay either $210 or $310 under the new fee structure, depending on their circumstances.
Those fees actually increased by $10 when the school district revised the fee structure on Wednesday.
“If we were in an ideal world then everything would be free everywhere, but we are not in that position,” said board chair Gen Acton.
“There will be some pockets of the community that are still unhappy with the decision but we are hoping that with a great discussion, with input from families, and listening to our community that we have hit something that is going to work for the community at large.”
However, Cherryville parent Krystal Arcand, who started the petition against the fee increase, said parents were disappointed.
“We were hoping that there would be more recognition (of) the feedback from the community,” Arcand said.
Arcand worries more families may opt to home school and that could threaten local schools in the rural area.
“My concerns are that it is still quite a high cost for this community,” Arcand said.
“My fear is we are going to have less ridership due to the fees which in turn is going to create a whole new set of issues.”
With the school district now expecting a surplus this year, parents are also questioning if raising the fee is necessary.
The school board chair said the surplus is unexpected and the district can’t count it to continue going forward.
Acton said the district’s current bus service “could be better” and the fee increase will help improve busing service, including helping to prevent courtesy riders from getting bumped from bus routes.
“We have come up with an opportunity for busing to be improved but obviously there are costs around those improvements,” Acton said.
Arcand said parents will keep pressing to reduce or eliminate busing fees even if it means lobbying the province to make school boards responsible for student transportation.