Some French immersion students’ families still paying school bus fees

Despite new funding that waived fees for many Abbotsford students, some are still paying an annual fee

Bus fees have been waived for students who attend their in-catchment school but remain for others.

Bus fees have been waived for students who attend their in-catchment school but remain for others.

A father of Abbotsford school district students says he is being unfairly punished with school bus fees for putting his children in French immersion.

In August, the provincial government announced $14.7 million in funding for student transportation, with just over $250,000 set for Abbotsford.

That money is being used to eliminate in-catchment school bus fees – $400 per student or $600 per family with two or more students. (Students who live within a prescribed walking distance of 3.2 kilometres for elementary and middle school students and four kilometres for high school students must pay a fee if they choose to take the school bus.)

But Peter MacDonald must still pay a $600 annual fee to have his son bused to Chief Dan George, the nearest middle school with a French Immersion program. That fee will jump to an $800 flat family charge if he sends another child there.

“We have the ability to cover the cost but question why are we being punished for having our children in French classes?” he said in an email. “We choose to put our children into this stream of learning for it is part of Canadian heritage and gives our boys an opportunity to have a second language.”

French immersion is classified as a district program, which it is not obligated to provide.

Faced with a budget shortfall this spring, the district chose to increase bus fees to help cover increasing transportation costs.

“Families that continue to choose district programs outside of their catchment area can continue to apply for transportation services and as noted in our administrative procedures, may be charged a fee,” a statement from a district spokesperson said by email.