Busing in Slave Lake causing headaches for High Prairie School Division

Pearl Lorentzen
For South Peace News

Bus driver shortages have plagued High Prairie School Division this school year.

On Nov. 7, 265 students who live in Slave Lake or the closest M.D. of Lesser Slave River communities were no longer being bused. Since then, HPSD has been training bus drivers and working on the situation.

As of March 23, “the busing situation in Slave Lake remains unchanged with respect to providing transportation for students living with 2.4 km (the current walking distance) of their designated schools,” says Kyle Nichols, HPSD director of communications.

“We are still actively looking for drivers to cover regular routes in the Slave Lake area.”

At the March 22 HPSD board of trustees meeting, busing again arose.

Supt. Laura Poloz’s written report in the agenda package mentions the parking situation at Roland Michener Secondary School. Parents have been using the bus lane to drop off and pick up students. Poloz met with the directors of facilities, business and finance, and the Slave Lake bus drivers to troubleshoot the issue.

“Further discussion is needed,” reads the report.

The written report reads, “Training: First Aid courses offered for drivers; two MELT (driver) training classes held in February (three HPSD and one Northland School Division drivers); approval received to conduct road tests in High Prairie (examiner not yet in place).”

At the meeting, the trustees asked administration some questions about the bus app which had arisen at parent council meetings. The long and short of it is that the bus app is updated the day before at 4 p.m. If there are no updates, the bus is running. Basically, it is a no new is good news situation.

If the bus is not running, the driver will call the transportation supervisor who will update the app. The driver will then call all the parents.

It can take drivers up to 45 minutes to call all the parents, said Poloz. It can’t be a text or a voicemail; parents have to be spoken with directly. It is also why it is so difficult for buses to leave early.

Also, the app does not automatically receive updates if it is open. Parents need to refresh it to receive updates.

With more parents and student driving, the busing situation has also come up at Town of Slave Lake council meetings regarding two different intersections in town.

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