Beginning next month, Squamish Transit’s bus schedules will be more closely aligned with school bell times to better serve the needs of students attending the Squamish French immersion program or those taking part in after-school activities.
In a letter to school officials, Kimberley Armour — the District of Squamish’s transportation coordinator — wrote that the new schedules that will take effect on Oct. 22 will shift to meet school bell times. Officials are also working out details for selling Squamish Transit bus passes and tickets through school offices, Armour wrote.
Last fall, Squamish’s French immersion program moved from Mamquam to Squamish Elementary School because of overcrowding issues at Mamquam. As a result, students from Brackendale and Garibaldi Highlands had to travel further to attend. With not enough demand to justify having the Sea to Sky School District dedicate school buses for the purpose, many French immersion students used Squamish Transit to get to and from school — despite the fact that bus times didn’t align well with the start and end of the school day.
The change to the transit schedules “will make transit a more convenient option for students who do not walk, bike or take school transit,” Armour wrote in the Aug. 27 letter to Margaret Paxton, principal at Squamish Elementary.
DOS officials are also working with their school district counterparts to ensure safe walking and cycling routes to and from schools. Actions aimed at achieving that goal include repainting crosswalks and adding new, painted crosswalks near schools and more dedicated commuter bike lanes on main routes, including more “bike route” signs and decals. As well, the Corridor Trial bike route from Valleycliffe to Brackendale will be fully paved and painted for two-way bike traffic “in early fall 2012,” Armour wrote.
A trail segment is also being extended to meet up with the new Squamish Nation Overpass to connect it with Stawamus Elementary School and the Corridor Trail, she wrote.
Bus cash credited
The Ministry of Education has agreed to let District 48 keep $90,000 in school-bus funding that ministry officials had threatened to withhold, District 48 secretary-treasurer John Hetherington told the board.
The district received that amount in insurance money from ICBC after three school buses were lost in June 2011 — one to a fire resulting from an engine malfunction in Squamish, two as a result of vandalism to buses that were parked at the district’s bus facility in Pemberton.
Hetherington on Friday told The Chief that after ministry officials indicated they planned to withhold the $90,000 from its regular school-bus funding allocation, District 48 officials responded that they felt that was unfair. In a recent letter, ministry officials agreed, drawing praise from the board.
It cost the district about $90,000 to lease three replacement buses for the 2011-’12 school year. New buses to replace the ones lost in 2011 are to arrive later this fall, Hetherington said.
‘Carbon neutral’ study in works
The board OKed the spending of $7,317 for a feasibility study of possible carbon-neutral projects involving school district facilities.
As B.C. government bodies, each of B.C.’s school districts is required to be carbon neutral and if it’s not, is required to pay the Pacific Carbon Trust money for carbon offsets. For each of the past two years, District 48 has paid out about $50,000 for that purpose, Hetherington. All districts are receiving $7,317 this year to help identify potential carbon-neutral facility upgrades, Hetherington told the board.
Hetherington said he and Rick Hume, the district’s facilities manager, plan to meet with Fortis B.C. officials in their attempts to identify possible projects. For example, one such project might be construction of a passive geothermal energy field to help meet the energy needs of neighbouring Howe Sound Secondary and Squamish Elementary schools, he said.
RAP being extended
Sea to Sky School District officials are extending a program to help high-school-aged students whose situations prevent them from attending regular classes to the northern part of the district.
For the past few years, the Reconnect Alternative Program (RAP) has been operated out of Squamish for the benefit of those in the southern part of the district who can’t attend regular classes for a variety of reasons — from sports training to employment to health and family situations, Lisa McCullough, District 48 superintendent, said on Friday (Aug. 31).
Learning programs are designed to meet the needs of individual students and often include a distance-learning component and regular check-ins with an instructor either in person or by electronic means, she said.
“It’s acknowledged that some students will have unique needs and may be more at risk from time to time,” she said. “It may be because of mobility issues, health concerns, employment — and that program may not necessarily be offered at our secondary schools.”
McCullough told trustees last Wednesday (Aug. 29) that District 48 officials and their counterparts at Ts’zil Learning Centre have discussed having the Mount Currie facility serve as the meeting place for RAP instructors and students in the Pemberton-Mount Currie-Birken area.
She said RAP program officials hope to reach school-aged youths whom she described as “missing in education” — i.e. they’re not attending school at all.
“In some cases we don’t know why, but the objective is to go to them, find out why, and re-engage them,” she said. “The message we want them to hear is that we want to find you and work to build a program that works for you.”
The extended program is set to launch on Monday (Sept. 10). For information, call Ryan Massey at (604) 892-5220 or Peter Jory at (604) 892-5228.
Second French class welcomed
Officials at Pemberton’s Signal Hill Elementary School were expected to welcome their second French immersion class this week. The school launched the program with a single Grade 5-6 class with 29 students in 2011-’12, and 23 new students were set to begin the program for 2012-’13.
Before the program was launched, parents and some faculty members expressed the concern the bringing French immersion to Signal Hill might result in most Aboriginal students in those grades being in the English program and non-Aboriginal students being mostly in French.
Two Aboriginal students took part in French immersion last year. McCullough this week said some Aboriginal students have signed up as part of the new French immersion class. She couldn’t say precisely how many, but admitted the number doesn’t match the percentage of Aboriginal students in the school.
“We are in public education so our classrooms are there for the learning of anyone who wants to be there. In no way would we be building something that would segregate,” she said.