More than two months into the school year, bussing remains a major issue in the Slocan Valley, according to the area’s newly-elected school trustee.
Sheri Walsh easily defeated Bob Price in Saturday’s by-election, 245 to 36. She will wrap up her duties as secretary of the district parent advisory committee in the coming weeks and officially be sworn in on the Kootenay Lake board of education November 20. Her term runs through the fall of 2014.
“Things have improved somewhat, but there are still problems out there,” Walsh said of the situation that sees some buses arrive much earlier or later than scheduled — the result of routes being eliminated to cut costs.
The Crescent Valley resident pointed to “ongoing” problems with the route she is most familiar with. “The biggest issue is the bus coming early,” she says. “The kids are at the stop five minutes early, but if it shows up eight minutes early, they miss it. It’s leaving the high school early as well.”
As she did prior to the election, Walsh encourages those who have problems to contact the district so administrators and trustees are aware.
She says it’s difficult to find a solution without looking at the broader, district-wide picture. Problems have also been reported in the Creston area.
“It’s really difficult to figure out,” she said. “Maybe they still need to tweak the schedule. Maybe it doesn’t really fit the route yet.”
Walsh said parents were promised software that would provide an interactive map of bus routes, but that hasn’t happened yet and she doesn’t expect it will be ready in the short term.
“All we can do is ask questions and look at the numbers,” she said. “Hopefully it’s more efficient, but is it worth the cost to students and families if kids are having unreasonably long days?”
She said adjusting routes in response to declining enrolment and ridership makes sense, but needs to be done in a way “that still serves our students and families.”
In a phone interview, Walsh also called her election win “very gratifying.” She was disappointed with the turnout, however, which saw just 8.5 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots. She was hoping at least 500 people would turn out, but admitted by-elections are tough, especially on a long weekend.
Walsh’s campaign included a mail-out flyer, door-knocking in Krestova and Bonnington, attending community events in Slocan and Passmore, and phoning “everybody in the phone book I had ever met.”
She also went to parent advisory committee meetings of the four valley schools and says she intends to continue to do so as trustee. “It’s going to be very interesting. I’m going to have to learn a lot.”
In an email to the Star, fellow candidate Price congratulated Walsh on her victory.
“I think she will do a great job,” he said.
The by-election was called following the resignation of Barb Lindsay, who has gone to work overseas.