School bus fees are being charged to all riders in the Vernon School District. (Contributed)

Back to school in North Okanagan drives bus fee upset

New school bus fee gets failing grade from parents

New fees rolled out for Vernon students riding the school bus are getting a failing grade from some parents.

The school district implemented a $25 annual ridership fee for the 2019-20 school year for the first time.

“I think it’s dumb, we pay taxes and all of a sudden we’re having to pay school bus fees when we haven’t in the past,” said one mom, who has a son in high school.

Meanwhile courtesy riders are subject to a $200 fee — which is $100 cheaper than last year’s fees.

“On April 24, 2019, the Board of Education approved the 2019/20 Budget Adjustment Plan, which included implementation of a busing registration fee of $25 for all students who ride the school bus,” said Robyn Stephenson, manager of school district transportation services.

“Courtesy riders will pay a rider fee of $175, a reduction from last year’s $300 fee, plus the $25 registration fee.”

The courtesy rider fee is for students riding the bus in the morning and afternoon (to and from school).

One way only courtesy riders pay $90. There are also separate amounts for single semester riders: $90 return and $45 one-way only.

There are also financial support options for those in need.

Despite some upset, the school district says feedback has been positive.

“Overall the response has been supportive; the families feel the $25 registration fee for all families is a fair way to share the cost with all riders,” said Maritza Reilly, Communications Coordinator. “And, we would say a majority of the parents are happy with the decrease in the courtesy rider fee.”

Payments were due Aug. 19, but admittedly a number of parents have not paid yet as they are waiting information from the transportation department.

“Beginning Aug. 19, once payment is made, bus passes can be picked up at the transportation department or alternatively will be available for pick up at your child’s school once school starts,” said Stephenson.

But with just a few days left before school starts, many parents have yet to receive busing schedules.

“It’s ridiculous, we have to work and school starts Tuesday,” said another parent, who has a son going into high school and a daughter in elementary school.

Meanwhile schools are gearing up for Tuesday.

“We are looking forward to a great new school year,” said Joe Rogers, School District 22 Superintendent. “Already the schools are buzzing with excitement as families get their children registered for classes. Some of our high schools have hosted grade 8 and new student barbecues earlier this week, and also we welcomed approximately 20 new teachers at an orientation session.”

Enrollment throughout the School District 22 appears to be up, however the District will be able to confirm final numbers by the end of September. If required, the district will be adding new divisions to the schools.

The Human Resources team has been busy over the summer with recruiting.

“We’ve experienced a lot of movement within the district; which is great because this allows our current staff the opportunity to grow in new positions within the district,” said Reilly. “We have also recruited, and continue to recruit, a number of well-experienced teachers, with 5-10 years of experience, from all over BC and Western Canada.”

READ MORE: New school bus fees drive safety concerns in BX

READ MORE: Letter: Vernon school bus policy unfair


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jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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