School bus fees mulled

The Okanagan-Skaha School District has some looming choices to make when it comes to student busing. 

The SD 67 board heard this week registered school bus rider are up 10 per cent over last year, to 1,318 students. That is despite enrolment staying mostly flat between the two years.

Last year, roughly half the students riding the bus were doing so as courtesy riders — meaning they are within the walk limits of 4 kilometres for K-3 and 4.8 kilometres for Grades 4-12.

SD 67 doesn’t charge any students — eligible or courtesy riders — for transportation, something that may have to change in the future. 

With growth in transportation numbers far outpacing enrolment each year, the school district last year had a consultant review the program and make some recommendations. 

The first, was pre-registration for busing, which was rolled out this school year. Previously, individual bus riders handled registration and lists.

SD 67 secretary treasurer Kevin Lorenz says the new registration system has allowed them to gather more data as they examine the consultant's other two recommendations: tighten up and enforce walk limits and consider charging a fee to all or just courtesy riders.

“There are a lot of options,” Lorenz said, explaining they will be presented to parents during public consultation this fall prior to implementation next school year.

There are a handful of overcrowded routes this year in Summerland, the Columbia area of Penticton and some routes heading to Princess Margaret Secondary.

Regardless, Lorenz said they have shuffled a few routes around and service levels will remain the same as last year. 

“We don’t at this point have any expectation that we are going to have challenges moving the parts to get everyone on a bus.”

The Central Okanagan School District charges a $200 annual fee for bus ridership. The North Okanagan School District brought in a $25 fee earlier this year.

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