School districts around the province, including Delta, have an opportunity to apply for additional money for their school bus programs, but that won't mean previously slashed services here will be restored.
The provincial government recently announced more than $14 million in new money will be available through the Student Transportation Fund, which the Ministry of Education says is aimed at helping parents with transportation costs and services, whether they use the yellow bus program or work with local transit operators.
"As a parent in a rural community, I know about the challenges of getting kids to school on time and then getting them home at the end of the day," said Education Minister Mike Bernier. "This funding will help districts provide better bus and transportation services at lower costs to parents."
Districts must meet certain criteria when applying for the funding, which can be used in a variety of ways, including adding routes, improving access to local transit and reducing ride times.
The amount of funding a district is eligible for is based on a formula tied to the Ministry of Education's student location factor, which is used to determine the rural makeup of a school district. Districts will also be required to report back on the outcomes and the benefits
they achieved as a result of the funding.
Delta has a possible $41,933 available.
That amount will only be enough to cover increasing costs of the current district bussing program, a service now only available to special needs students since the ministry altered its funding formula, forcing the Delta board of education to eliminate the service for rural students.
Board chair Laura Dixon told the Optimist while the district is appreciative of any new money, it will be status quo unless the funding formula changes.
"When the province was examining the historical application of the grant (and) is it meeting the needs of most of the students most of the time, they came back with an answer that Delta will be getting less. So we went to Victoria and we made the case for our unique geography, that we were a complex region of a mix of rural and urban, and we asked them to re-examine it and they did. They got back to us that the new formula was going to stand," she said.
"That discussion happened a couple of years ago and the funding now isn't a new formula, it's simply an addition, which is still a good thing for us."
To make up for the phased $728,000 funding cut due to the revised formula, the board eliminated service in rural areas, although it was maintained for special needs students.
The move angered many parents here, especially those in rural East Delta that doesn't have sidewalks, as well as Panorama Ridge and Boundary Bay. Saying their kids' safety would be jeopardized, parents complained their areas are poorly served by public transit.
Dixon and members of the district met with then education minister Peter Fassbender, asking him to revisit the new formula, but the ministry decided the cut to Delta should stand.
That decision irked parents here even more, since some more urban school districts actually received increases in their student transportation budgets.
The Corporation of Delta entered the picture for a while, but stopped short of agreeing to take over the bussing program as it did with the school crossing guard program years earlier.
Dixon added maintaining the program for special needs students is complex and expensive due to programs spread out.
With files from Sandor Gyarmati