St Joseph's School board chairwoman Gigi Hollyer, with
children Anthony (7) and Caitlin (9), is concerned at the
financial implications for the families of Wakatipu
schoolchildren faced with using commercial bus services.
Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
Some Wakatipu school principals are questioning why the
Ministry of Education talked to private bus operator
Connectabus about a review of school bus services two months
before informing them.
Under the review, school pupils with access to a suitable
public transport service and who meet certain distance
criteria will no longer be eligible for school transport
assistance, requiring families to pay for a commercial bus
Schools heard about the review at a meeting last Thursday,
but Connectabus managing director Ewen McCammon told the
Otago Daily Times yesterday the company had been in talks
with the ministry for about two months.
The ministry's group manager of service delivery, Jerome
Sheppard, said it had to approach Connectabus before telling
schools about the review so it could confirm whether the
company could provide a ''suitable alternative to our
existing routes'' and to determine the company's future
Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall said schools were
not ''jumping for joy'' about the ministry's approach to the
review, including the timing of its announcement.
Mr Hall said the school would like to have been informed
sooner about the proposed changes.
''The implications of this are potentially far-reaching and
so for students, families, schools and the community you
would want as much time as possible if this is going to
Schools were also concerned the review had been put to them
as a fait accompli rather than genuine consultation.
''Probably, their interpretation is that the consultation bit
is around which routes this is happening to, rather than
whether it's happening or not.''
Remarkables Primary School principal Debbie Dickson said she
was surprised the ministry had been talking to Connectabus
for two months, as schools would face a ''massively tight
squeeze'' to adapt to any changes.
Although the ministry was required to give schools a term's
notice of any changes, only 16 weeks of term time remained
until the new school year and it would be ''weeks'' before
they knew which school bus routes would be dropped or
''That doesn't leave a lot of time to change
infrastructure,'' she said.
Mr Sheppard said the ministry believed 16 weeks was enough
time for schools to consult their communities, ''but if it
becomes apparent that more time is needed for schools to
adapt, then more time will be allowed''.
St Joseph's School board chairwoman Gigi Hollyer earlier this
week said she was concerned about the proposal's financial
implications for pupils' families.
She also had concerns about safety and issues around bullying
and having children on buses with unknown adults.