The board of education of School District No. 20 elected its officers for the period of Dec. 1, 2015 to Nov. 30, 2016.
Teri Ferworn was elected chairperson and BC Public School Employers Association representative, and Rosann Brunton was elected vice-chairperson, as well as alternate BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) Provincial Council representative and alternate BC Public School Employers Association representative.
Toni Driutti was elected BCSTA Provincial Council representative.
The school board received a response from the province regarding it’s request for four new school buses, but only received funding for one.
The province will supply $134,935 for a new bus, but it “could not fund all [the district’s] requests for school buses this fiscal year.”
“The bus that is going to be replaced is a bus that we are having some mechanical issues with and is showing some rust,” said Natalie Verigin, secretary-treasurer. “The three that the ministry has not chosen to replace this year have met the kilometers or the age requirement, but we have not noted there was anything physically wrong with them.”
In the past the ministry would consider replacing buses that had been driven over a certain number of kilometers or that were of a certain age. Verigin said they hadn’t heard from the ministry why there is less funding this year, but suspects it’s because they’ve increased the routine capital.
“If you recall, the routine capital expenditures were originally set to be about $20 million in the province, and they ended up issuing $35 million in projects, so my thoughts are that they’ve just held back some money from the buses,” she said.
On hearing this, Mark Wilson, board trustee representing Trail, raised safety concerns and proposed sending a letter to the province voicing this concern.
“If the government had sort of set criteria as to when they were going to replace buses … it must have met some criteria when they talked to mechanics and other people,” he said. “Now for them to just say it’s a money saving issue, is it putting us in any harm? And if so, we have to have it noted that we’re not happy with it.”
Greg Luterbach, superintendent of schools, cautioned the board against citing safety as a concern.
“I’m not sure I would recommend to the board mentioning safety. The buses that are on the roads today, they are safe, so you know, I don’t want to cause panic out there that the buses aren’t safe,” he said. “But probably the fact that they’re being used longer does put pressure … on our mechanics.”
Darrel Ganzert, board trustee for Fruitvale, Montrose and Electoral Area A, requested that the board make no mention of motive in the letter, as they had no way of knowing for sure why the money wasn’t available.
The board decided to “write the ministry expressing concerns about non-replacement of buses as per the traditional replacement schedule.”
Verigin noted that the three buses that will not be replaced are working fine, and can be put on the list to be replaced next year when the province anticipates “a larger program that will address a greater number of requests.”
The school district is up 14.375 full-time equivalent students from Oct. 2, which Luterbach said is unprecedented.
“I can honestly say I’m not sure we’ve ever been up, in ten years that I’ve been to SD20 board meetings, at the end of November,” he said. “We typically kind of peak in October and then slowly decline throughout there, so I think it is a sign of changing times.”