Rocky View Schools (RVS) has completed the first phase of its public consultation regarding how to pay for rising transportation costs. RVS has struggled to fund its busing/transportation program for a number of years.
The division sent out a survey Jan. 25 to all parents for which it had an email address. The survey closed Feb. 16.
Additionally, three 90-minute sessions were held in Airdrie, Cochrane and Chestermere at which residents could provide feedback. Trustees also made presentations at a number of school council meetings throughout the division.
“All the people that have taken part in the process – at councils and everywhere else – we just appreciate them speaking up, sharing their thoughts and we’re happy that, that’s taking place,” said Todd Brand, RVS Board of Trustees Chair.
“That’s the whole point of doing engagement like this – to get communication out and then see if we can draw some usable information that we can put into action for people. I think we found some of those things that we can do.”
Brand said while transportation costs have risen by 17.83 per cent since 2008, grant revenues have only increased by 1.27 percent in the same period.
The board decided to cover shortfalls in previous years by gradually increasing bus fees and taking money out of the transportation budget reserve – originally approximately $2 million – but that pot is now completely dry.
Respondents to the survey and participants at the sessions were asked to prioritize seven potential cost-saving measures the division could take to solve the problem. The public meetings each drew between 30 and 45 participants.
The first survey received 1,937 responses from parents and 258 from RVS staff. A second survey will be conducted, however, a date has not yet been announced for that survey.
Brand said he recognized some work would need to take place before the division starts the second phase of the engagement process.
“Looking at our early responses from what people have said on our transportation engagement, we’re realizing there are some things we probably haven’t communicated really well,” he said. “There’s been some ideas people have brought up that are good ideas but might not work for our context, so we’re ready to address some of those.”
He added, so far, the consultation has resulted in new ideas that may be implemented, as well as “some directions that we can take that will help us solve the issue that is in front of us.”
Results from phase one of the engagement are posted to the RVS website, along with supporting materials, at rockyview.ab.ca/cost-savings