Changes made to school bus eligibility

HALIFAX: A new policy surrounding school bus eligibility is starting in the upcoming school year.

Under the new student transportation policy, students and pre-primary children who attend an elementary school and live at least 1.6 kilometres away will be eligible for busing. Junior and senior high school students will be eligible if they live 2.4 kilometres away. Most regional centres and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial are currently operating at or below the new criteria.

The previous distance criteria were 2.4 kilometres for elementary schools and 3.6 kilometres for secondary students.

In September, all eligible pre-primary children will also have access to a school bus. Families can contact their regional centre for education or the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial to determine bus eligibility.

Education department spokesperson Gary Andrea said the new policy will address communication plans between service providers and families, and include a new review process.

“The transportation policy also outlines the service standards expected of the transportation provider and incorporates a new review process for families who disagree with a transportation decision,” Andrea explained. “The new policy addresses concerns expressed while preserving what has been working well in the regions.”

While acknowledging that the new policy will be felt most in the Halifax Regional Municipality, Andrea said there was extensive consultation with stakeholders across Nova Scotia.

“We also consulted with representatives of [School Advisory Councils] from across the province,” he noted. “The survey told us families outside Halifax were overwhelmingly satisfied with their service. Families in Halifax wanted to see shorter distance criteria and other improvements to busing for their children.”

The policy was developed with input from a November 2018 on-line school bus consultation survey that more than 8,000 Nova Scotians responded to.

More than 77,000 students ride a school bus every day.

For more on the school transportation policy, go to: https://www.ednet.ns.ca/docs/schooltransportationpolicyen.pdf.