Last week, the school bus route on Cortes Island slightly changed to add a bus stop for the Klahoose First Nation. This change added 4 minutes to the commute, increasing the total travel time to about 58 minutes each way for kids from Whaletown.

It only takes about 30 minutes to drive from Whaletown to the Cortes Island School. The Klahoose First Nation and Squirrel Cove are also about a 30 minute drive to the Cortes Island School, but those towns are located about 30 minutes away from Whaletown. There is only one bus and one route for the Cortes Island School.

A media relations representative for School District 72, Jennifer Patrick, responded to CKTZ News in an email on the bus route change.

School districts are not required under the School Act to provide transportation services and the district provides busing as a courtesy, free of charge. Without ridership fees, we must make difficult decisions about the routes and service levels and operate within the funding set by the Board of Education as money spent on transportation is money that could be used to directly support learning in schools and classrooms. As such, we are always evaluating our routes with the bus drivers to try to find efficiencies.

Carie Taylor, a parent in Whaletown, spoke up publicly on the main Cortes Island website (Cortesisland.com) on the lengthy bus commute. In the post she suggested the possibility of a split route, which would require two buses. Taylor spoke with CKTZ about her statement. 

“I just think that an hour each way on the bus is too long,” she said. “And I’d like to see them find a way to make that shorter, but I’m not sure how.”

The Cortes Island School has an average annual registration of about 45 students. Currently, District 72 only has 80-person school buses in its fleet. Patrick confirmed the cost of a new, smaller school bus.

“Adding another bus or several smaller vehicles would mean additional purchase, staffing and maintenance expenses. For context, another school bus is approximately $200,000 + an annual salary, benefits, and maintenance costs of approximately $50,000/year.”

To hear more about how kids are commuting to and from the Cortes Island School, listen to the CKTZ News Update below: