September 11, 2017

Students Count Backgrounder on Transportation

June 06, 2017  (Updated)

  1. Bill 1 only provides for free busing for children who live more than 2.4 km from school – CBE advises this is only 25% of students.

    1. Is 2.4 km reasonable to have children walk? For a 6-year old, this takes one hour. How many adults do we ask to walk an hour to their bus stop? In -25C weather?

    2. Alternative programs have been hit hard. These are programs such as French, Spanish, and Traditional Learning Centers and generally operate in older areas without a robust community population. a. Even if you ignore the value of having bilingual adults in a global world,or the fact TLC programs reduce the math failure rate by 2/3, what happens if these programs are emptied out or simply become small, elite programs in CBE?

Emptying out Alternative Programs has Consequences for all students

  1. The province will not build new schools in outer communities while inner city schools sit

    vacant. Alternative program schools will be filled – either with people who want to be there or are forced to be there. There is a clear winner between these two choices.
  2. Simply put, we will still be busing students to alternative programs – but it will be students who don’t want to be there, instead of students who chose these programs. Forcing students to go to schools outside of their community instead of enticing them is not a practical plan.

  3. This risks a return to overcrowding at community schools, larger class sizes, losing libraries to classrooms, having 70 students in a gym class, and losing staff rooms to teaching spaces. This is the sub-optimal situation students have endured due to a lack of new schools. The new schools opened in Calgary this year were a welcome relief, but these schools will quickly be filled up again as students exit the alternative programs.

  4. What about having language programs in every school?

    1. That’s not practical. If you did that, you could easily end up with class sizes for language programs that are much smaller than regular programs – is that good for equity?

Changes to Alternative Program Busing Introduces Two-Tier Education in the Public System

Several alternative program schools have been forced onto Calgary Transit. Parents report their bus costs have now more than doubled to $700 per student; children as young as 10 have to take two city buses to get to school. Some bell times between feeder schools means dropping off two children 45 minutes apart - this is impossible for working families.

CBE has just made alternative programs elite. Families with a stay at home parent, parents who are more affluent and can afford the increased busing fees, and parents who have flexibility in their work schedule are all at an advantage. Equity of access needs to be returned.

Other considerations:

  • Changes to bell times have presented another issue for children. With 90% of CBE schools having early dismissal on Fridays, some parents say they are signing up for busing – but only need it for Fridays as they are unable to leave work to pick up children in the middle of the day.
  • Coordinating bell times with feeder schools. When junior high and feeder elementary schools have start times too far apart, bussing for one school is often needed. Close start times can help families avoid busing altogether. Let’s remember that students are not allowed into schools prior to the bell ringing except when it is extremely cold, and there is no outdoor supervision at elementary schools until 15 minutes prior to bell times.
  • Currently, siblings do not have priority to enter schools. This policy adopted by CBE means splitting up families and is not acceptable. It also greatly increases the chances one child will have to be bussed, especially for working parents, or single parents.

Media Contact: 
Kelley Charlebois