October 06, 2016 - 11:36 AM
KELOWNA – Central Okanagan families will no longer have to pay to send their kids to school on buses.
Roughly 3,000 School District 23 students use buses to get to class and now thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Ministry of Education they will be able to do so without paying any fees.
Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson says in a media release this new fund “puts money back in parents' pockets by eliminating bus fees, meaning they can use those funds for other family priorities.”
For the 2016-2017 school year, the Ministry of Education offered the School District a $600,000 transportation grant which can only be used for the purpose of alleviating the transportation fee for students who in the past would have been considered eligible riders.
Eligible riders are primary students living within four kilometres of their school and elementary and high school students within 4.8 km.
Special needs students are eligible to ride buses for longer distances.
School districts were able to apply for the Student Transportation Fund before Sept. 30 and had to submit a plan to the ministry outlining how they will use the funding to enhance transportation services for students and families. Districts will be required to report back on the outcomes and benefits they achieve as a result of the funding.
A media release from School District 23 confirms the province has now approved their plan and confirmed that the grant is forthcoming.
“The school district will begin the process of applying the subsidy and refunding parents the fees for eligible riders already paid for the 2016-2017 school year,” it says. “The School District is targeting early November to complete the process of issuing the refunds."
The province says the grant will be ongoing and in preparation for next year’s transportation registration, the district will adjust the registration process so the subsidy can be applied when that student’s placement on a bus is confirmed.
“Making this change will result in parents not having to pay the fee first and then receive a refund later. The School District is expecting to continue this new subsidy process as long as the annual grant remains available,” the Ministry says.
The new $14.7-million total Student Transportation Fund was announced in August to help B.C. school districts provide affordable and accessible transportation.
The Central Okanagan School District spends almost $4 million per year transporting students to and from school. In 2009 the school district introduced a fee to help offset rising costs after a 2002 freeze in funding.
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