Alberta’s government is beginning work to improve K-12 student transportation based on recommendations from an MLA-led task force.
Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner was a part of the Student Transportation Task Force discussions and report presented to Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education, including suggestions, next steps and what is currently working.
The first phase of the K-12 student transportation action plan begins immediately with two audit teams beginning to review the student transportation operations of up to 15 school divisions by fall.
A joint working group of provincial government and task force members will also be established to further discuss student transportation issues, including concerns with the Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) Program and school bus flybys.
“The big piece in speaking with all of these municipalities is about the composition of each division that makes each division unique.
“So one of the main things we recommended was this audit team that would work with education and transportation [departments] and go and ensure a division was following all the best practices and the best that they could that we would then use that information to make sure that they didn’t have a transportation shortfall,” said Horner.
The main concern from the divisions was associated with the MELT program. Currently it prevents people who apply to be bus drivers from getting on the road sooner and can deter others from applying at all. It also increased costs to provide this training.
It was recommended the province relax or modify the current requirements during the pandemic to address these challenges.
“We heard from every board about MELT,” said Horner.
“It was very much a top priority. Pretty well across the province every division had issues with MELT.
“One of the problems was that we were a task force struck by education. MELT falls under Transportation so we definitely wanted to highlight what an important issue this was for the divisions and our task force but we have to give this over to the education minister to begin those conversations with transportation.”
The second phase, to begin by September, includes work to enhance regional cooperation among school divisions.
It will also examine a provincial purchasing program for buses, fuel, insurance and parts.
As part of the third phase, Alberta’s government will complete a new student transportation-funding model to be used during the 2022-23 or 2023-24 school year. This work will be completed by September 2022.