The Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) Board says it has looked at a number of ways to address rising costs for bus contractors in the Lakeland, now the Board has agreed to add its name to a letter being circulated by another school division that expresses concerns about the increasing cost of insurance for bus contractors.
The Board says it will also be sending its own letter to the government outlining the impact this issue has already had on the division’s ability to offer student transportation services.
This year the NLPS will receive $5.594 million from the provincial government to provide transportation for students. This is the same amount they received for the 2020-2021 school year.
Nicole Garner is the Communications Officer for NLPS.
“Funding was unchanged because the province is in the process of developing a new funding model for transportation following the work done by its Transportation Task Force last year,” Garner told Lakeland Connect.
Garner says, “The Board gave all contractors a three per cent increase this year, despite not receiving an increase in funding from the provincial government.”
Superintendent Rick Cusson noted funding over the last several years has not kept up with increased fuel and insurance costs that contractors are dealing with.
In addition, training for drivers with the introduction of the MELT program has increased by $5,000-$10,000 per driver.
The division has tried to assist with keeping training costs down by creating its own driving school and training drivers locally, but this has impacted recruitment and retention of drivers and bus contractors.
Garner says the NLPS Board will continue to raise this issue with Alberta Education and our area MLA’s to try and find a resolution as well as work with their insurance consortium (ARMIC) to explore alternatives.
“A variety of options have already been explored, but none have resulted in a solution that did not include increased insurance costs for contractors,” Garner said.
The division has consolidated as many routes as possible and currently has one route that cannot be filled.