Lack of collaboration leaves Eckville students walking

The Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees is refusing to bus a small number of urban kids to school

The Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees is refusing to bus a small number of urban kids to school in Eckville, as they fall inside of the 2.4-kilometer perimeter around a school; a set by the board.

Grumblings are coming from Eckville regarding the board’s stipulation that urban students must live further than 2.4 kilometers from their school to be entitled to bus services.

The students affected live on the opposite side of the railway tracks of the school and because there are no sidewalks to help them cross, parents are concerned for their safety.

In the past, the board has attempted to create a partnership with the Town of Eckville to create a solution together. “The town does not want to enter an agreement, that’s not my problem,” said Eckville trustee Pam Hansen.

“I’m not sure we want to have a meeting with the Town of Eckville, because we’ve already decided on 2.4 kilometers,” said board chair Trudy Bratland.

The board says Eckville looks at Ponoka, Lacombe and Blackfalds and sees urban busing. However, secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson says the routes were not born out of safety concerns, but appropriate student numbers.

It takes 30 to 35 riders to cover the costs of running a bus and in Eckville there are only 12 in question, with only one falling outside of the 2.4-kilometer range.

Trustee Bob Huff says the board should not take any money away from classrooms for another bus, especially when the provincial budget is still unknown. He added that if the division were given extra money this year, the board might be able to re-visit the issue.

“The capacity to increase funding for transportation in today’s budget world is pretty slim,” said Henderson.

Huff says if the parents are so concerned, they should take it upon themselves and write to their MLA for more funding.

A bus drives by the area of the students’ homes each day with enough room to pick them up and the parents are willing to pay the fee needed to have them ride on it.

But without the town entering an agreement with WCPS, subsidizing the families or paying the students’ way, the board says the bus will not be stopping for them.

Huff says if the families combined resources and looked into hiring some sort of van, it would be a cheaper option for them.

“They just want that ability to get on the bus,” said Hansen.

“Apparently this has been going on for 15, 16 years,” she added.