Transporting students to and from schools is among the most important parts of running a public school system in a rural area.
Section 51 of the School Act requires school divisions to provide transportation for students who live more than 2.4 kilometers from the school that they attend. Alberta Education provides transportation funding for all students who meet that criteria, with a base amount for every student 2.4 or more kilometers from their school and additional amounts for mileage after the 2.4 kilometers.
The Transportation Supervisor is responsible for identifying all the students in Westwind who qualify for funding and submitting a full list of these students to Alberta Education for the funding they provide. It is very important for the Transportation Supervisor to have accurate address information from parents, and accurate mapping software and data to work with.
Students with special needs who require transportation because of a physical, emotional, educational, or social challenge will be provided with transportation to and from school on every school day, as per the Board’s Policy #507.0.
In some cases, students may obtain transportation within school boundaries. If a student has chosen to attend a school that is outside the school boundary where they live, (e.g., a student living in the Cardston school boundary wants to attend Mountain View School) the parents must request a variance from the Board to attend their non-resident school of choice. Permission to attend may be granted if there is room in the school and if there is an existing program for their child in the school they desire their child to attend. If these criteria are met, the student may attend the “non-resident” school. However, there is no Westwind responsibility to provide transportation in these cases. Transportation may be provided if there is room on the bus, AND if the parents pay a nominal fee of $200 AND they get their child to the nearest bus stop in the morning and pick them up at the same bus stop at the end of each day.
Our priorities in transporting students are:
- Efficiency, and
Our primary concern in transporting all students is that the students are safe while on the bus and that they are acting in a welcoming, safe, caring, and respectful way toward bus drivers, other students, and others on the road. We take many steps to ensure safety on the bus including regularly performing maintenance on each bus, ensuring all drivers are licensed and trained appropriately, and using principals, teachers, and parents to encourage students to act appropriately on the bus.
Buses and bus routes are expected to run efficiently. Bus routes are now being designed on the principle of furthest out, first on. This lets buses take the most direct route from the outskirts of their route to the school and back to the homes. Efficiency also means buses are providing students the most direct route to and from school. We make efforts to eliminate bus transfers and lengthy waits before or after school whenever possible. We also try to make all bus rides as short as possible. Our average bus ride is, to the best of our knowledge, significantly below the average rural ride time for students in most other jurisdictions.
Bus routes are also designed to only allow for short stops to pick up students who are waiting at the designated stop and waiting to be picked up, within reason. Buses cannot wait for more than a minute or two for students to arrive at the pickup location, as that delays the pickup of all subsequent students and delays their arrival at the school.
With these three considerations in mind, our Transportation Supervisor uses data and mapping software to find the safest, most efficient routes for the largest number of students in the Division. This is a difficult and demanding process, and not everyone is happy with the results. But by making these decisions based on principles, we do our best to ensure that we treat all students and parents as fairly as possible, while still being open to making changes to accommodate special individual circumstances.