If you read our last update, you already know that the CBE is planning a move to congregated stops across the system next fall. The new strategy also involves moving some middle school students from yellow charter buses to Calgary Transit, and removing the busing subsidy for older students. If you share concerns about these changes, there is still time to act before the strategy is implemented.
Many of you have asked who you should contact, and for convenience we have set up a feedback form which you can access by visiting this post on the CAPSC website. If you choose to use this method of communication, it will transmit your concerns directly to the Minister of Education, the Premier, your MLA and other members of the Alberta government. CAPSC will be advised of your views. You can also contact me directly at email@example.com.
While we understand that transportation is a complex issue, CAPSC believes that problems such as this one are most effectively solved when parents and stakeholders work together to craft the best possible answers. We respectfully repeat – parents require both information and consultation before major changes are made.
The proposed changes will allow yellow bus riders to pay $30 less, but students may walk much further to catch the bus. The subsidy removal means that while the yellow bus fee is $300, some middle to high students will pay more than $500 per year for Calgary Transit bus service. (Calgary Transit's price is $600 for 10 months, and with a 15% credit through income taxes the net cost is $510.) We also note the CBE’s yellow bus fee is still 50 per cent higher than the Catholic system’s fee of $200. According to the Calgary Herald, some students may walk up to 2.4 kilometres to catch the bus. As bus service starts as early as 7 a.m., in winter months this walk would take place in dark and icy weather conditions.
As soon as these changes were announced, CAPSC requested that the CBE immediately release the proposed routes, and questioned why the CBE’s administrative regulations regarding consultation were ignored. CBE’s last response to us was to encourage us to ask parents to sign up for transportation services.
To date, parents have received little information on how this change will affect them. Our May communication with trustees requested that details be provided to families as soon as possible, so that parents understand the strategy and can make advance plans. We also reminded trustees that parents are to be consulted before major changes such as this one are made.
On June 22, CBE Board of Trustees Chair Joy Bowen-Eyre informed CAPSC executive that public consultation will take place in the autumn, after changes are already in place. Parents were asked to register (not pay) for transportation services by June 25th, with details on routes to be released August 27th – a week prior to school starting.
CAPSC executive continues to hear serious concerns about how these changes may affect children’s safety, as well as parents’ ability to plan family schedules for the coming year. While CBE officials have stated that the system is no longer sustainable, parents have not been provided with supporting information, nor were they given input on alternatives. This is surprising given CBE’s own documents indicate these changes were contemplated as early as December, yet were not indicated in the transportation survey done this spring.
We note one middle school has had this decision reversed given parental concerns about young children having to transfer once or twice to get to school.
We continue to advocate as Calgary’s parent voice in education. Information about our planned activities for autumn 2015 will be coming soon.
Michael McIntosh, Interim President