In Spring 2023, Alberta Education announced an increase in funding for school bus transportation and expectations for new service levels for school boards. These changes were set to take effect for the beginning of the 2024-25 school year. On Nov. 29, 2023, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides announced the deadline for implementation had been extended to Sept. 1, 2025. This would give school boards experiencing capacity challenges time to fully implement the student transportation eligibility criteria changes specified in the regulation. The CBE already provides an enhanced level of service to provincial requirements with our established transportation model. Increasing eligible riders at this time would mean adding more drivers and buses to our already strained system.
We appreciate the additional time provided by the Minister. Over the next year and a half, we will continue conversations with Alberta Education and work with our schools to determine the specific impact on their transportation numbers and potential changes to bell times. For the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years, existing school walk zones and eligibility will remain the same.
Walk zones determine transportation services because students outside the walk zones, but inside the attendance area are considered eligible. As well, walk zones play an important role in determining priority categories for lottery acceptance. Students living inside walk zones have priority for registration over those who do not. CBE is often asked to allow students living ‘just outside’ the walk zone; however, we are unable to make exceptions for students living near, but outside, the walk zone boundary.
CBE Administrative Regulation AR 6095 – Student Transportation details eligibility for transportation and a
Transportation Advisory Committee to help establish walk zones among other roles.
The committee meets as required to review new walk zones for schools under construction, or extraordinary circumstances (i.e. when a new walk zone was required for Elbow Park School due to flooding and the temporary relocation of the school to the Earl Grey School site).
Provincial funding for school transportation is based on an estimate of the number of students living 2.4 km or more from their designated school. CBE current walk zones are generally between 1.6 km and 2.4 km, depending on grade configuration in the school.
Walk zones are developed using specialized ArcGIS and Google Earth Pro mapping software. CBE staff create buffers around the new schools to determine which residential lots are within walking distance. These areas are exported to Google Earth Pro and fine-tuned by analysing the satellite imagery to consider naturally occurring boundaries for the school walk zone.
CBE continues to look for the best ways to accommodate students across our system. The intent is for students to attend school as close to home as possible within the existing constraints of system resources.
Determining Transportation Eligibility
CBE calculates distance from student homes to their designated school according to the
Education Act Appendix School Transportation Regulation section 4. We measure the distance from the edge of the student’s home property (or in the case of a housing complex, the edge of the complex is used). Measurement is done by our route planning software. We do not use estimations provided by Google Maps, odometers or other distance tracking devices.
Transportation eligibility is based on taking a measurement from the school in 2.4 km in each direction. It considers the shortest distance to travel between home and school, including all City of Calgary pathways, and all roadways but geographical characteristics are not taken into account for this calculation. It is important to note, we are not asking your child to walk this path, we are using the shortest distance travelled for the calculation.
Loading Zones at Schools
CBE works collaboratively with the City of Calgary to establish student loading zones. Most student loading zones are located on the street and supported by signage that is enforced by the Calgary Parking Authority. School staff parking lots are not to be used for loading students for safety reasons. Some schools have specific student loading zones on the school property, separate from the staff parking lot, and can be used in those cases. Families are reminded to obey all traffic laws and parking by-laws around schools and bus stops to keep our students safe.