CHERRYVILLE - A Cherryville mother is considering homeschooling her children after learning they will now have to walk over nine kilometres to get to the nearest bus stop.
Kara-Lee Zeolkowski got a letter from School District 22 in June saying the bus stop outside the family’s home on Sugar Lake Road has been eliminated. The next closest pick up location is at Sugar Lake Road and Aumond Road, just over nine kilometres from Zeolkowsi’s home. It’s a walk she says she would never send her kids on.
“It’s an active logging road, there’s no shoulders, and it’s not lit up at all,” she says.
Because she and her husband both work and the kids go to different schools, she says it’s not feasible for them to drive their children to school, or even to the bus stop. She says she would be making six trips a day picking them up and dropping them off at the bus stop, measuring out to 56 km of driving a day.
“I would have to quit my job and homeschool,” Zeolkowski says.
She says there are 22 registered students on Sugar Lake Road and is encouraging anyone affected by the cuts to speak up to the school district.
The changes are part of a district-wide implementation of a 2.4 km walk limit. Acting secretary-treasurer Adrian Johnson says it was a tough decision driven by funding cuts from the provincial government.
“The funding we’ve been provided with has declined year after year after year. By 2016-2017 we must demonstrate over $800,000 in cost reductions not directly affecting education,” Johnson says.
By cutting the Sugar Lake Road bus route, he says the district will save $18,000 alone. Further savings are being accrued throughout the school district where bus routes have been tightened up, he says.
Because there are only seven registered school bus riders on Sugar Lake Road and the district requires 14 to justify a bus stop, Johnson says the decision was made to eliminate it. He adds there is some financial assistance for students like Zealkowski’s who live beyond the 2.4 km walk limit. In her case, the district is prepared to pay her a certain amount per kilometer for driving time.
“It’s going to impact many families and change routines. It’s not something we do lightly,” Johnson says. “We certainly sympathize with the concerns.”
But, he says, it’s ultimately up to parents to decide how to get their kids to school.
“The school district will provide the best service it can within the available budget. It’s up to parents to decide the best way for their child to get to school, or to the bus stop.”
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