New requests challenge WCPS, St. Thomas Aquinas agreement

The St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic school division is looking to renew its transportation contracts

The St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic school division is looking to renew its transportation contracts with Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) for another five years. However, WCPS has concerns with how the Catholic division wants to proceed.

“Our agreements expire at the end of this year. There are some troubling requests that they’ve made,” said WCPS secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson.

STAR hold two contracts with WCPS for Ponoka, rural and urban busing, and another two along the same lines for Lacombe.

One concern is the WCPS and STAR school day calendars do not match up. In the past, when WCPS buses have run about five routes on days the division did not school, STAR was billed.

STAR wants changes in the contracts that would bind WCPS to provide buses on days the two calendars do not match without billing the division, says Henderson. “I don’t think we want to necessarily go there.”

Board chair Trudy Bratland reminded the trustees that last year WCPS recommended that the Catholic Schools align their calendars to match.

Henderson told the board he did not see the division getting out of providing rural transportation of the Catholic students, but if STAR holds hard to its requests, the better option may be having the two divisions provide separate urban busing.

He says with that there is an issue of students “hopping” the bus to attend Father Lacombe Catholic School, but added most of the busing requests in Lacombe are to go to Ecole James S. McCormick School.

The division generates approximately $80,000 in additional transportation grants. “Because we have joint agreements with the Catholic board,” said Henderson.

“It’s incentive to have us work together, so that factors in a bit,” he added.

“As much as I would like to keep a positive relationship with our Catholic neighbors, I think we would have to be very careful to sign a transportation agreement that would costs us, either in being fair to our own students and parents or in costing Wolf Creek money,” said Lacombe/Blackfalds trustee Barb Walker.

The board had a meeting with STAR on Monday, March23 when the matter was scheduled to be further discussed.