Wednesday, January 16, 2008

half way busing

"a high school student in the public board has to live 3.2 km from school to qualify for busing. In the Catholic board, that distance is 1.6 km"

That's an interesting stat; 1.6 km is not very far to walk. Joint busing is one of the strategies for Governor's Road, but it looks as though this, and many of the ideas to improve traffic, are still a long ways from becoming reality.
Talks stalled on joint school busing policy

The Hamilton Spectator, (Jan 16, 2008)

Talks between Hamilton's public and Catholic board chairs are still stalled over the touchy business of forming a joint agency for busing city students.

Public board chair Judith Bishop said talks haven't gone anywhere on combining Catholic and public bus routes, a plan she says would save taxpayers money.

She said Hamilton is one of only three Ontario school districts without joint busing -- and she says it boils down to the Catholic board using generous busing to draw students, and thus funding, to its schools.

For example, a high school student in the public board has to live 3.2 km from school to quality for busing. In the Catholic board, that distance is 1.6 km.

"The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board believes in one bus, one policy, one route, and we haven't got anywhere," Bishop said.

"There's a difference in philosophy."

The province wants public and Catholic boards across Ontario to form joint entities to save costs by sharing bus routes and using good routing and management practices.

The Halton public and Catholic school boards this week launched a joint consortium -- not controlled by or located at either board -- with 372 vehicles to transport 25,000 kids to school.

General manager Karen Lacroix said Halton has, since 1996, had joint busing in its public, Catholic and French Catholic boards, predating recent provincial instructions that boards bus together.

This week they launched a new consortium with all four Halton boards -- public, Catholic and two French boards -- with a separate office, phone number and focus on zones, not board districts.

"Any amalgamation has its issues, but the fact that three boards had an integrated transportation service for so many years... made (it) easier than for boards that hadn't been sharing services," Lacroix said.

In Hamilton, no such progress. Bishop said without universal standards for busing, boards differ in their policies. She feels the Hamilton Catholic board is unwilling to give up its generous busing policies, in the interests of saving taxpayer money.

But Hamilton Catholic school board chair Pat Daly denies the stumbling block is about the distance at which students are bused. He says talks never reached that level of detail.

He said it's about governance.

"Just in terms of autonomy and control over policy, that's one of the issues," said Daly. He said he hopes it doesn't come to focus on details like busing distances. "It's important to note that, while we don't have the full consortia in place, we have been co-operating for years (in Flamborough)."

Daly said his board has one of the most efficient bus systems in Ontario and doesn't want to jeopardize that in a joint effort that may not bring savings.

At a provincial level, Catholic trustees have raised concern that a one-policy model may risk Catholic autonomy.

In Halton, however, Lacroix said that the boards have begun to lease a neutral office location and since 1996 have been realizing more than $1 million in annual savings from joint busing.


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