School bus routes spark concerns

A bus services review could see some Taieri parents travelling 200km a week to take their children to bus stops.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education says reviews in North Otago are not a prelude to service cuts.

Last week, the Ministry of Education (MoE) launched a two-week nationwide survey of school routes as part of an efficiency drive to improve school services.

The survey follows complaints by parents at Clinton School in South Otago over a change to bus routes. Since then, the Otago Daily Times has received three complaints on the same issue, from parents in Oamaru and Outram.

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, told the ODT all three of Outram School's buses were facing significant route cuts, meaning some parents would face driving up to 200km a week to get their children to bus stops.

Under the changes, earmarked to begin later this year, one bus which now travels as far as Henley will finish its run at Momona.

The parent said one child faced a 120km weekly round trip to a bus stop and another, 200km. Parents were not allowed to claim a travel allowance, she said.

However, Outram School principal Jeremy Marshall said the school was working to find a solution and was "optimistic of a positive outcome".

Mr Marshall the school's bus route issue was separate from the one in Clinton.

The MoE survey also included three bus routes affecting pupils from Waitaki Girls' High School.

The Bortons, Glenavy and Airedale school runs were three of 340 routes that had been selected at random for survey, the ministry said.

A ministry spokesperson said the survey, which ends this Friday, would collect the names of pupils and details of the schools they attended in a bid to understand their travel patterns.

There were "no plans" to cut school bus services, the ministry said.

Waitaki Girls' High School acting principal Adrienne Lambeth said although 29% of the school's pupils rode the bus to school, and despite a large catchment area, there had been no complaints from parents regarding bus routes.

However, she said some pupils living outside the catchment area had to travel to collection points at Glenavy and Hampden.

"Our catchment area is approximately from the Waitaki River to Hampden and the coastal areas.

"Certainly, we do have quite a number of our students who are bus students.

"The ministry tells us that it [the survey] is to try and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the school bus service, so I guess anything that works toward that end we would be very happy with."

Last week parents at Clinton Primary School began a letter-writing campaign opposing changes to the school's rural bus route, which left children from four families with at least a 1km walk to the nearest pick-up point.

South Otago parents received additional support for their cause from the Clutha District Council when councillors agreed to write to both the ministry and Clutha-Southland MP Bill English, after a discussion of the rural bus routes at last week's Clutha District Council meeting.

Clinton ward councillor John Cochrane said the council needed to support rural bus routes.

"Children in this area would have gone to the Waipahi School before the school closed. These kids deserve better than this."

Waipahi School was closed by the ministry more than a decade ago, due to a declining roll.

Ministry resourcing group manager John Clark said the situation in Clinton had been resolved, as there were now enough eligible pupils for the ministry route to be extended.

The extension was implemented last Wednesday.


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