Alberta families with school aged children will save some money this fall thanks to Bill One.
Under the new policy, Rocky View School (RVS) Board will provide, at no cost to families, all required course textbooks and instructional resource materials except for those considered optional courses or programs, as well as provide free transportation to children over 2.4 km attending their designated school.
Colleen Munro, RVS Board Chair, says Bill One will help Alberta parents keep money in their pockets. "For instructional fees it means Rocky View families will not be paying and instructional resource fee. That is money that is not going to have to come out of a family's budget when they send their kids to Rocky View Schools."
RVS' Policy 26 Instructional Resource Fees for Optional Courses, Programs, Activities or Goods was presented to the Board for approval on June 15, 2017 in which specific instructional resource fees for courses or programs considered optional or for specific optional activities or goods are allowed to be levied by schools back to families.
There was lengthy conversation around Policy 26 and in the approval process, a friendly amendment revised the definition of 'School Established Optional Program Fee' to include clarification that 'Board established programs of choice, currently French Immersion and Christian Programs excluding Prince of Peace Lutheran School, are not subject to an optional program fee.' As for other fees, families will still be expected to pay for services/materials considered optional to purchase, such as gym strip, yearbook, flash drives, lunch supervision, field trips, photographs, recorders, computers, headsets, and a Division Established Optional Fee will be applicable for band instrument rental for students registered in a band program who rent an instrument from the Division.
Parents with kids in grades 1 to 4 will still receive school supplies provided at no cost, and monies received earlier in the year for kindergarten registration will be returned.
As far as transportation goes; it is more complicated, Munro, shares "Parents that are going to their designated school beyond the 2.4 kilometre walk limit which is a legislated limit within the current School Act will not be paying fees. Parents who are under that 2.4 kilometre walk limit will be paying fees and the Board decided those fees in May."
The Minister of Education still needs to give his final stamp of approval on Rocky View's decision to raise bus fees which is expected to occur sometime this summer. "The Minister said that he will be looking at every school board's fees schedule and will be approving or recommending changes. If the Minister does recommend changes to our transportation fee schedule especially if he directs us to lower it then we will be calling a special board meeting and we will be making that decision as a board in public."
Munro understands that news of the Minister's decision is important for families and says it has been difficult to manage internally for the transportation department. "As soon as we get any direction from the Minister we would want to make that decision so that everything can fall into place as seamlessly as possible."
With RVS providing transportation to a very large jurisdiction parents will need to have patience with the process. "We transport almost 12,000 kids a day with the Calgary Catholic kids that also ride Rocky View Schools buses so we are a very big transporter of children in the province we can't turn the titanic around on a dime."
While timing has been difficult to make sure policies were signed and put in place, Munro, says "we'll get though it, and we'll try to get through it without disrupting our Rocky View families as much as possible."
If something changes and payment was made, RVS will issue a refund