Buses serving schools in the Sooke School District are full, leaving parents to make other arrangements as many kids are left without bus service.
SD62 board chairperson Ravi Parmar said the school district’s burgeoning student population — the growth in the district’s student population was double what was expected this past year — combined with a lack of employees, means there aren’t enough spots on buses to go around.
“If we lost a couple more bus drivers, it would have a devastating impact on our district…” he said, speaking during the announcement of SD62’s vaccine mandate for new hires.
Even for those who get bus service, there are still issues.
Kristen Fisher’s daughter, who goes to Dunsmuir Middle School, has had to miss school twice because the bus never showed up. Fisher, who commutes to work from the Luxton area to Brentwood, wasn’t able to leave work to pick her up. On another two occasions, a friend’s parent had to take Fisher’s daughter to school when the bus was cancelled without notice.
“My kids have rode the bus for seven years and this has been the worst it’s been,” she said.
Sara Blackstock lives in Valley View Estates, but her middle son, Jackson, goes to Belmont Secondary School, out of the catchment area. In past years, the bus would pick him up a short walk away just outside of the subdivision. But now he catches the bus outside the Happy Valley Market, a 40-minute walk.
“That’s a lot and the school board, they don’t care, quite frankly, is how it feels,” she said. “We never got a response from any of the emails that we’ve sent to them, and when we call they said, ‘If you want a bus, this is what you’ll take. If not, figure out your own way to get your kids to school.’ ”
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said the impact of the lack of available spots on school buses is evident to see on the community’s roads.
“One reason why there’s more traffic congestion is that the school buses are overloaded and at capacity,” she said. “Now more folks are driving their kids to school than ever before.”
Tait said the District of Sooke is looking to address the issue, potentially doing things like implementing a walking school bus program — where students walk to school in groups, usually in a long line of pairs, like the layout of a school bus.
Blackstock said she would be happy to pay for school busing, if it meant getting better service.