Funding cut axes school bus

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 14:00 19/12/2012
Jenny Swift and children
WILMA McCORKINDALE/Fairfax NZ

Driver Jenny Swift with some of the children whose Otago Peninsula school bus run is about to be axed.

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The wheels on the bus have stopped turning for some Dunedin school bus runs but cogs are in motion to continue threatened services.

School buses come off the road for pupils living at two of the far ends of the city, the Otago Peninsula back bays and those from Seacliff, from the beginning of the next school year.

Parents on Otago Peninsula are scrambling to find a replacement. Seacliff pupils are likely to be redirected to a public service.

Ministry of Education School Support group manager John Clark said in the Seacliff case that a biennial review found no eligibility for Ministry-funded services where suitable public services were available.

Back Bays spokesman Simon Rhodes said a small van has been running their children to and from Portobello School along potentially treacherous local roads each day, administered by Ministry of Education School Support Services.

Eight children of varying ages use the bus, driven for many years by the experienced Jenny Swift.
Parents had been told at the beginning of the final term this year the number of eligible children using the school bus had dropped below the viable level. They had since been lobbying for the service to stay, to no avail.

Families are now investigating possibly financing their own service.

Two of the families affected live more than four kilometres from Portobello School.

The route runs along narrow and dusty gravel roads beside Hoopers Inlet and Papanui Inlet - dangerous roads for children, Mr Rhodes said.

The Ministry was suggesting the Harwood school bus now pick up the Back Bays children, he said, but parents believed that bus was too big to negotiate the roads.

It would also mean Harwood children would be on the bus for more than hour to get to school and back, Mr Rhodes said.

Mr Clark said individual students were assessed as eligible for Ministry-funded bus services according to their circumstances (age, distance from closest school and lack of suitable public services).

The loss of school bus services was discussed at Dunedin City Council spatial plan workshops, Cr Kate Wilson said.

Among items discussed was the council's role in such services. One idea to meet declining school bus services was the possibility of combining passenger and school services to make transportation to the city's more remote areas viable, Cr Wilson said.

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