Transit options explored

School district seeks alternatives for students busing to Ladysmith

Parent-organized charter bus service is the only option currently available for displaced Cedar secondary students that chose Ladysmith Secondary, but more busing is being examined.

The Cedar high school was closed in June as part of the Nanaimo school district’s 10-year facilities plan and while some parents chose to send their children to designated catchment school John Barsby, some opted for Ladysmith.

Busing was provided for students attending Barsby, but not Ladysmith.

The school district requested the Regional District of Nanaimo look into the possibility of transit service to accommodate students.

According to Daniel Pearce, regional district manager of transit operations, a meeting with regional district staff, their counterparts from Cowichan Valley and B.C. Transit is set for October.

Pearce said the Nanaimo regional district has a transit plan which discusses routes into Ladysmith, and the question is whether that fits with Cowichan Valley Regional District’s plans, as Ladysmith falls within that jurisdiction.

A high school-specific bus isn’t possible through public transit, but route planning based on student schedules could be taken into consideration, according to Pearce.

“If there’s Vancouver Island University involved, if there’s the school district involved, what would their wants be? So making sure we’re trying to take that into account, alongside what the tax base is, alongside all the other variables with B.C. Transit and trying to make sure if we could do it, what are the best times to do it and what players are at the table,” said Pearce.

A plan would take at least three to four months to implement and the biggest task involved would be where the buses would be going. Once that was agreed on, it would only come down to where funding would come from, according to Pearce.

He said a route in 2015-16 would be more realistic.

Meanwhile, some parents in Ladysmith have voiced concerns over transportation issues. Davis Road Elementary was closed earlier this year with most of the students in kindergarten to Grade 3 now going to Ladysmith Primary, leaving some outside the district’s four-kilometre walk limit.

School District 68 communications director Donna Reimer doesn’t believe it’s a large number of students affected but said the district has heard from a couple of parents on the topic.

Reimer said the parents don’t find the bus stop convenient, as it’s on the highway and not near Davis Road. That bus arrives at Ladysmith Secondary at 8:13 a.m. Parents of students who live outside the four-kilometre walk limit and elect to drive their children to school are also eligible for assistance of 30 cents a day per student as well as 16 cents a kilometre, up to a maximum of two students.

“They’re not feeling that is an appropriate amount but it is an amount we’ve had for years,” she said.

School districts are no longer required to provide transportation for students, but Reimer points out the Nanaimo-Ladysmith district has continued to provide assistance despite the lack of provincial funding.

“Some school districts actually charge for transportation but our district hasn’t chosen to do that,” she said.

With files from Dan Ebenal