Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) will be making a number of changes to school bus transportation processes in the division starting in the 2023-24 school year, officials said.
Communication with parents and guardians regarding the changes is planned for the coming months.
Trustees have accepted the recommendations outlined in a report titled Transportation Strategies and Improvement put together by administration and the transportation department on the instruction of trustees.
RDCRS includes schools in Innisfail and Olds.
The report was presented to trustees by superintendent Kathleen Finnigan and accepted by board members at a recent board meeting.
As recommended in the report, the division will be moving forward with changes in four areas of transportation, chairman Kim Pasula told the Albertan.
One change calls for the division to “strive for more consolidated stops” in the district.
“All routes will be adjusted to consolidate stops where feasible,” the report states. “Students’ walk times to their bus stops will increase due to moving to a system of consolidated stops. We will continue to examine the number of stops in order to ensure reasonable ride times.”
A second change will see express routes utilized to reduce ride times.
“As we focus on an efficient transportation system, bell times will be examined in the future and adjusted division-wide to support potential express routes.
“We are challenged with balancing the service and options of grandfathering for the 2023-2024 school year, but will introduce these routes with the target of middle school students. We will communicate with families that express routes, double routing, and school bell time options will be continuously monitored, and will keep route design fluid throughout the school year.”
Under another change, for registered riders only two addresses will be utilized; the primary addresses and one additional address with appropriate joint custody orders on file.
“Families may incur the costs of having students take an additional seat on a second route. We need to ensure communication is clear to explain that even if a family is willing to pay, the second address is only available to split custody situations. The department will have calls asking why the ‘traditional’ family is not being offered the same option.”
The report states that a recommendation that is “similar to our neighbouring school boards where a charge of $300 per eligible student if a second bus is required due to the location of the second address of the parent.”
Under a fourth change, non-registered students will not be permitted access to transportation, for example join a friend at their house after school, and bus-registered student must ride their designated routes only.
“This implementation will lessen the chance of a lost child, and offer relief to the dispatch roles during bus times. We will also remain flexible when a family is challenged by a family or health emergency and needs immediate assistance.”