Maryann Wingie, Director of Transportation Services, presented the transportation services update to Clearview Public School Board trustees at their regular meeting on Feb. 26 in Stettler.
The district has been collecting and analyzing the length of bus rides for 18 years and has been able to consistently meet the Board’s ride time goals.
Currently, high school students from Byemoor face the longest rides.
Wingie expressed her pride in the transportation staff. For this reporting year there were zero accidents and zero convictions for Clearview bus drivers and zero out-of-service days for the maintenance crew.
MELT (mandatory entry level training for Class 1 and 2 drivers) is proceeding.
Clearview bus drivers get the 53.5 hours of training free and donate their time.
As one driver stated, “What they hated most about MELT was 53.5 hours of training, what they loved most about MELT was 53.5 hours of training!”
Since the fuel price contingency grant was eliminated in 2014, all school districts have struggled with insufficient dollars to run buses and consequently have used instructional dollars, surpluses and other grants to fund the shortfalls.
Transportation made savings through route optimization, removing eligible, but non-rider students and decreasing bus maintenance costs through better communication on road maintenance with counties.
“We are pleased how quickly county staff work to address school district road concerns,” said Wingie.
A co-operative busing arrangement was made some time ago with the local separate school division, East Central Alberta Catholic Schools (ECACS), for schools in the Town of Castor.
Advantages of cooperative busing agreements are many— efficiencies gained in running a single busing route, best use of tax dollars, and additional grants available from the Alberta Government ($713 per student).
As budgets tighten, it is hoped a similar agreement can be reached within the County of Stettler.
Many school districts have already or will be introducing student bus fees, to make up for the grants lost in the fall budget.
Other districts have turned to private operators.
“Last time Clearview looked into contracting out busing, our transportation efficiencies were such that a private operator was unable to bid high enough to make money”, said Wingie.
The idea of the province coordinating the purchase of buses to gain bulk purchasing power was also raised as a potential cost savings to local school boards.
Boards meet with MLA Nate Horner Trustees Scott and Smyth reviewed outcomes from a meeting they had arranged with Nate Horner, MLA for Drumheller-Stettler on Feb. 19 in Hanna.
All school boards that are wholly or partially within the borders of Horner’s constituency were invited to attend.
Four did, Golden Hills, Prairie Land, Prairie Rose and Clearview.
Horner has asked that after the budget is released, school boards provide him with analyses comparing the old funding model to the new funding model.
“He needs facts in hand”, said Scott, “so when opportunities arise, he is better able to argue for and represent the rural perspective.”
Specific areas discussed were transportation costs, insurance on school buildings (which have skyrocketed) and the necessity and ability to have flexibility, autonomy and rural perspective represented in Caucus.
Village of Big Valley Community Vision session
Trustee Smyth attended the Feb. 25 meeting where the draft community plan was unveiled.
Smyth noted that the school wasn’t mentioned in the proposed Village of Big Valley municipal plan.
“This raises the whole issue of different levels of governance needing to advocate on behalf of each other,” said Smyth.
Discussion centred around the Clearview Board becoming more aware of community-planned events and more forthcoming in offering input into municipal plans since schools are valuable assets in communities.
“From his perspective, conversation with community groups is as important as communication with parent councils,” said chair Greg Hayden.
CUPE Agreement ratified
A two-year agreement with non-instructional staff was ratified. It ends on Dec. 31, 2021 and provides no increases for base compensation and only small changes from the previous agreement.