FAQ: Changes in Student Transportation Funding in Thunder Bay Area

Q1: Why has there been a change in student transportation funding in the Thunder Bay area?

A: The Ministry of Education conducted a Student Transportation review, resulting in a change in the funding model for student transportation. Funding was frozen at 2019-20 levels during the review, causing financial pressures. The new model, effective from the 2023-2024 school year, ties funding to universal standards for student transportation eligibility distances.

Q2: How does the new funding model differ from the previous one?

A: The new funding model establishes Ministry of Education standard eligibility distances for student transportation. It applies benchmark costs for operating buses, determining an annual amount per school bus needed. This model reduces funds previously provided, incorporating additional costs such as fuel and driver retention programs.

Q3: What are the Ministry of Education standard eligibility distances for student transportation?

A: The Ministry of Education has set universal distances for eligibility. For example:

JK-SK: 800m

Gr 1-3: 1600m

Gr 4-8: 1600m

Gr 9-12: 3200m

These distances are double for many areas compared to Thunder Bay’s previous eligibility criteria.

Q4: How does the new model impact local families and students?

A: The new model applies Ministry of Education standard eligibility distances to determine the number of funded students and the optimal number of school buses needed. This means that approximately 15% of students currently transported may no longer be eligible for transportation services.

Q5: Why did the boards decide to continue current eligibility practices for this year?

A: Due to the late notice of the funding change in April and the final year of contracts with local bus operators, the boards unanimously agreed to maintain current eligibility practices for the 2023-2024 school year. This allows time to adjust to the lower grant amounts and procure transportation services for the 2024-2025 school year.

Q6: What changes can be expected for the 2024-2025 school year and beyond?

A: Starting from the 2024-2025 school year, the boards will only be able to contract for the reduced number of school buses funded by the Ministry of Education. This will only have the capacity to transport students eligible under the Ministry’s universal distances standard, resulting in approximately 15% of current students no longer being eligible.

Q7: How can families prepare for these changes?

A: Families are encouraged to be aware of the new eligibility distances and plan accordingly. Parents can check their child’s eligibility for next year by selecting the 2024-2025 school year under “Can I Ride a Bus?” through the Eligibility page at ststb.ca Those affected by the changes in eligibility may need to consider alternative transportation arrangements for the 2024-2025 school year and beyond.