South Peace News
A shortage of bus drivers and the mental health of students remain top concerns and priorities for High Prairie School Division.
At its monthly meeting Nov. 15, the board of trustees discussed both issues, cites an HPSD news release dated Nov. 15.
Routes in the Falher and McLennan region are being fully served, although with limited spare drivers, Supt. Laura Poloz updated trustees.
The High Prairie, Joussard and Kinuso wards have a sufficient number of main drivers and spare drivers, she noted.
However, the situation in the Slave Lake region is concerning. Slave Lake has experienced significant driver shortages, both full-time and spare drivers, which resulted in five routes in the Town of Slave Lake being cancelled for students living within 2.4 km of their designated schools, Poloz said.
Training a school bus driver takes about six weeks and HPSD’s trainer is limited by legislation to train no more than three drivers at a time.
Related to the issue, the board discussed options for parents to support the school division in bussing concerns and the division’s mental health proposal.
At a recent school council meeting, parents asked about the option for a form letter to be drafted regarding concerns about bus issues and student mental health to increase awareness and advocacy.
In previous discussions, with professionals in the field of advocacy, it was noted that form letters are not as effective as personal letters with real-life stories from the author.
Trustees directed administration to provide a list of writing notes to trustees that can be shared with interested and concerned individuals.
The shortage of school bus drivers is not a priority listed anywhere in Premier Danielle Smith’s mandate letters released to ministers in the cabinet in early November.
However, Smith directed Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to pursue opportunities and strategies to address transportation cost pressures and ride times for children with special needs and their families. Included in her letter:
-Mental health support for students and families is a priority;
-Work with Mental Health and Addictions Minister Nicholas Milliken to continue to expand and provide additional supports to school divisions and families to address gaps in mental health and wellness support for youth;
-Explore short-term and long-term strategies to address the need to add a significant number of educational assistants in classrooms to address learning loss and the increasing complexity of learning needs;
-Increase the pace of the cross-ministry work between the ministries of education, health, mental health and addictions, seniors, community and social services, children’s services and justice by focusing on clear and uncomplicated points of entry;
-In co-operation with Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson, support First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and communities by establishing a continuum of addiction and mental health services, ensuring access to service provision is not disrupted by jurisdictional disputes and increasing access to services to manage the impact of Indian residential schools on mental health.