School District 68 recently banished hopes of students in Cedar being bussed into Ladysmith.
The students in question are those currently enrolled at Cedar Secondary School, which closes in June, that have chosen to attend Ladysmith Secondary School come September.
Upon the school closing, students in Cedar were given a choice of either going to LSS or John Barsby Community School in Nanaimo.
Barsby is now the catchment area high school for Cedar kids so busing will be provided for students heading there, but as LSS is out of catchment, buses are not put on.
At the special school board meeting held Feb. 6 in Ladysmith, trustee TerryLynn Saunders made a motion to provide busing from Cedar to LSS as well, but that failed.
“The best thing we could’ve done was split Cedar in half and send half of the students to John Barsby and half to Ladysmith Secondary, but that didn’t happen,” said Saunders at the meeting. “We’ve done an awful lot to the students of Cedar but we did provide busing from South Wellington to Chase River. I know the cost of busing is expensive but this happens to be the right thing to do even if it’s at the wrong time.
“I asked questions originally and all I got was ‘we’re not in the business of buses.’ Barsby is a great school so it’s nothing to do with that school. I just have to do what I believe is fair.”
The motion would have saw SD68 purchase new buses for a transport service to be implemented, but Saunders was only backed up by trustees Sharon Welch, Kim Howland and Bill Robinson.
Chair Dot Neary as well as trustees Donna Allen, Jamie Brennan, Bill Bard and Nancy Curley voted against.
“I support this motion too,” said Welch at the time. “I work a lot with people in poverty and they don’t have the same choices as people with money. We’re doing disservice to those who can’t afford the gas and I have a problem with that. I didn’t understand initially the values of living in a small community. People in Cedar feel as though they relate more to the Town of Ladysmith rather than the City of Nanaimo. We’re not looking outside the box on this one. Over half of the students said they want to come to Ladysmith and I wonder how many more would come if they had busing.”
Over 180 Cedar Secondary students have already registered to attend LSS.
“I support the motion as it’s the right thing to do,” said Robinson. “We need 180 to 200 students here and we need the same roughly at Barsby. All students, rich or poor, should have the same opportunity.”
Chair Neary, along with Allen, Curley, Brennan and Bard highlighted money restraints as a stumbling block in also providing busing to Ladysmith.
“Nothing would thrill me more than to offer busing to Ladysmith but it’s a luxury we can’t afford,” said Neary. “I don’t know where the money would come from.”
“We want to provide choice but we have to be fiscally responsible as well,” he said. “It’s in place that if a school is not in the catchment area, we don’t provide busing. I suspect that more people would go to Barsby if there’s no buses to Ladysmith.”
SD68 predicted it would cost $300,000 extra to put on buses to Ladysmith.
“The capital costs of busing is quite significant,” said Brennan. “We can’t afford it. I’d like the board to research car-pooling software as it’s an inconvenience for a lot of people in Cedar. As a secondary school facilitator, we would make sure that this is safe.”
Brennan’s car-pool suggestion was greeted by jeers from many disgruntled members of a captivated audience inside the LSS gymnasium.
Curley stated that “the reality is, we have no money,” and Allen reckons Cedar students can easily get to Ladysmith by car.
“I did teach in Cedar and the students back then who chose Ladysmith went by their own car,” said Allen. “The ones going to Nanaimo went by bus.”
A disappointed Saunders ended by saying, “Sometimes it takes time for decisions. I wish we’d said to the Cedar parents that we’ll split the students in half and I still don’t know why that didn’t happen. If this was 10 years ago, all I would’ve thought about was the cost. This is about getting students into a classroom they want to be in. I hope we’ve learned a big lesson here and it never happens again. I knew this motion was going to fail but I had to do it as it’s what I truly believe in.”