The Prairie South School Board (PSSB) has upheld their decision to eliminate dual-catchment areas for transportation.
Prairie South made the decision as part of their 2017-18 budget, saying the move will save them about $80,000 in division transportation costs per year.
The move has received pushback from several rural families who, until this decision was made, had the option of Prairie South bus service for their children to attend school in Moose Jaw or the school nearest to their home. Many of those families attended the PSSB meeting at the Division Office on Tuesday afternoon, trying to get the board to overturn their decision.
"We think all of our schools are great schools," said PSSB Chair Dr. Shawn Davidson, adding that they need to "manage the size of the transportation area for Lindale School in particular. The catchment area for Lindale is more than double in geographic size than almost all of our other schools in the division. It's become really unmanageable."
Lindale School has long been designated as the Moose Jaw elementary school for rural school children to attend, with Davidson saying enrollment there is "full."
"There's great opportunities for kids in Mortlach, Avonlea and Mankota," Davidson continued. "Those schools have every bit as much to offer as Lindale does."
Having said that, Davidson did say the other decision reached at their meeting was that they would "open up" Lindale for attendance to rural students, provided they find their own transportation. "So kids that are younger siblings of other students at Lindale, or kids that may fall into another rural catchment, that may want to attend that school, will be allowed to do so," he explained. ""That's the compromise we came to, but we simply can not afford to have two buses in one small community going in opposite directions."
Affected families from Caronport, Willow Bunch and Briercrest areas all pleaded their respective cases to the board Tuesday, with Briercrest's offering to cover the transportation cost (estimated at around $1,600/year) from their village to Lindale if it would mean continuing the service.
Davidson appreciated the gesture, but said it would set a dangerous precedent.
"We're not going to tell one community 'you can be on a user-pay model' because then we are saying to those that are privileged or have some wealth that they can pay for a service that we won't provide to those that are in a similar situation."
Davidson says the "decisions didn't come easy" and they spent "a lot of hours of debate" over the transportation changes.
"We understand the realities that (affected) parents are facing but we also understand that our ratepayers, when they hear about two buses in one place going in opposite directions, they say 'those are the places you can save some money right away'. So, we had to go and tighten some of these things up."