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Two trial projects drive towards easing the burden of long bus rides for students

The Alberta government will partner with two rural school districts to explore ways to improve students’ experience on the bus to and from school. 

Improved bussing and Wi-Fi on buses in two rural school districts will contribute to greater student life balance.

“Transportation times can have a profound impact on students’ school-home life balance and, ultimately, their educational experience,” said Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk. “These trials aim to reduce transportation times where possible and provide added educational value where it is not. Student life balance is fundamental to the success of all students.”

One trial taking place in the Golden Hills School Division, which serves Strathmore, Three Hills, Drumheller and the surrounding areas, will explore reducing bus ride times for students by finding efficiencies and adding more bus routes when necessary. The ‘Rural Ride Time Reduction Project’ will provide the school jurisdiction with the necessary support to optimize their existing student transportation service and add bus routes where needed. The project will focus on about 130 resident students attending their designated schools who spend more than an hour travelling to or from school each day. It will begin in early April and run until the end of the 2011/2012 school year.

“Our school division includes a large geographic area where many students experience long bus rides to and from school," said Golden Hills Board Chair David Price. “We look forward to this project and the opportunity to work with Minister Lukaszuk and Alberta Education to learn what reduced ride times will mean to our students and their families."

The second trial will take place in the Prairie Rose School Division, which serves the area surrounding Medicine Hat. The ‘School Bus Wi-Fi Initiative’ will focus on making long bus rides more productive for students by installing Wi-Fi on buses. This initiative will give students the opportunity to get a head start on their learning on the way to school or get started on their homework on the way home.

The project targets students who ride the bus for over an hour to and from school and will involve more than 300 students on up to 30 buses, each equipped with Wi-Fi technology. Students will be able to use their personal devices or school-supplied netbooks. Teachers will receive training so they can provide students with materials suitable for mobile course work. The trial will roll out in two phases: the first for students at South Central High School will begin in early April, and the second for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students from New Brigden and Foremost schools will begin in fall 2012. Both phases will continue until the end of March 2013.

“We are very excited about giving our students another tool to achieve high results. We believe that parents and bus drivers will be supportive of an initiative which recognizes one of the challenges in the day of a rural student,” said Prairie Rose Board Chair Marian Peers. “For our students with extended bus rides, this is an exciting development and is consistent with learning anywhere, any time, any pace.”

The estimated cost of these transportation pilots is $350,000 for Golden Hills and $210,000 for Prairie Rose. The projects support the 10-point plan for education by exploring ways to improve student transportation. The 10-point plan outlines 10 immediate priorities to address some of the most pressing challenges students face every day. Each will make a direct difference to Albertans, and is in addition to new education legislation.

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Media inquiries may be directed to:

Amanda Krumins
Alberta Education Communications
780-427-0946
780-940-1096
amanda.krumins @gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.