The Cambridge Bay District Education Authority doesn’t have the funds to fix the community’s untrustworthy school bus so it wants the Government of Nunavut to take responsibility for the service.
The vehicle hasn’t been in use this school year.
“The bus still runs but is not safe to use,” stated Alan Sim, chair of the Cambridge Bay DEA. “We are going to go back to the (GN) and ask that they take over bussing services in Cambridge Bay. We understand that they operate bussing in some other communities.”
There are multiple issues with the vehicle and the engine could need to be replaced at any time, Sim explained.
“The repairs would eat most of the budget given to the DEA. The problem there is that we could repair it and we would have very little left to pay a driver and supervisors,” Sim stated. “On top of that, after making the repairs, the engine may fail and all the money would have been wasted.”
In addition, the existing bus – a 2007 model – is too small for the community’s needs and a heated location to park a bus is needed to help preserve it, Sim added.
Education Minister David Joanasie informed Nunavut News that the department is already considering an October request from the Cambridge Bay DEA for a replacement bus and a heated storage space. The department has a $280,000 annual budget for new school buses, but the Education Act puts the onus on DEAs to manage school buses.
Among the criteria that the department considers when granting new school buses is the number of students who use it, the distance from school, seasonal temperatures and safety.
Sim wasn’t certain how many students use the bus in Cambridge Bay but he estimated that the greatest distance any of them would have to walk to school is approximately one kilometre.
Joanasie said only elementary school students take the bus in Cambridge Bay and the service normally runs from mid-November until March 31.
Despite not having access to a school bus this year, there’s no indication that school absences in Cambridge Bay or even students showing up late for class have been trending upwards, according to Joanasie.
Sim said, in general, parents have been supportive while the bus has been inactive, although some have expressed concern. He added that up until a recent cold snap, the community enjoyed mild weather, making it more conducive for children to walk.
Joanasie noted that his department has taken a number of measures to assist various communities address bussing issues. Among them are providing training for bus drivers – in partnership with local organizations – and providing taxi vouchers for students when a bus isn’t available.
The Education Act doesn’t make school bus service mandatory, however.