The Kootenay Lake School District (SD8) passed their 2015/16 budget at last week's meeting.

Kootenay Lake school district passes budget amidst bussing controversy

Out-of-catchment bussing has been controversial for years according to superintendent.

The Kootenay Lake School District passed their 2015/16 budget at last week’s school board meeting amidst controversy surrounding out-of-catchment area bussing.

Initially removed from next year’s budget, trustees Bob Wright and Dawn Lang moved to have it reinstated despite issues that have arisen in collecting the $200 fee from parents.

(Out-of-catchment bussing involves transporting children whose parents have chosen to send them to schools outside of their normal area, often to pursue education in a second language such as French.)

“If we stop it now the parents who have been paying will be upset,” Wright noted.

The sentiment was echoed by Rebecca Huscroft, who said “it would be quite an insult to families that have been taking the responsibility to pay their dues.”

And though trustee Bill Maslechko opposed the motion, it received enough support to be included in the capital and operating budget, which came to a total of $59,167,167.

Superintendent Jeff Jones told the Star after the meeting that out-of-catchment bussing has been a controversial issue for years, and they have no way to enforce the payment of the annual $200 fee.

That means some parents have paid, and others haven’t. But either way they have to allow the kids on the bus.

“We can’t leave kids on the side of the highway,” he said.

The out-of-catchment bussing is the final recommendation from a 2009 transportation report that hasn’t been implemented yet.

“The recommendation was to eliminate out-of-catchment bussing completely, and the trustees over time have been reluctant to facilitate that or bring the recommendation to action.”

The $200 fee, implemented two years ago, was intended as a move in the right direction. But Jones said it has caused conflict for the district and put a strain on their resources.

“We don’t add new bus routes, we only accommodate if there’s room on an existing route.”

Jones said the projected amount of revenue is what they expect to receive, and not indicative of the amount that would be owed if all parents cooperated.

Trustee Curtis Bendig praised the budget at the meeting and thanked all those involved in creating it.

In a press release from SD8, the district identified highlights of the budget into three broad categories: Focus on Student Learning, Human Resources and Commitment to Capital Investments.

Jones said the budget illustrates their “continued commitment to putting students at the forefront of our decision-making”.

The budget includes $200,000 to “replace and enhance technology for work and learning throughout the district” through the Technology Evergreen fund.

Mt. Sentinel and L.V. Rogers will receive $10,000 to support upgrading their PE equipment, and $72,100 will be put towards upgrading aging shop equipment throughout the district.

$565,855 has been committed to meet the specific needs of vulnerable learners through Community Links.

The district will also hire a Director of Technology to “provide systemic leadership in technology infrastructure and ubiquitous access to support learning and teaching in the district”.

For more information about the budget visit the SD8 website at sd8.bc.ca.

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