School buses return to Inuvik after more than 2 decades

·2 min read
The two new school buses will begin picking up students on Monday. (Submitted by Kelly McLeod - image credit)
The two new school buses will begin picking up students on Monday. (Submitted by Kelly McLeod - image credit)

After more than 20 years, children in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, will be able to take the bus to school.

Two school buses were recently purchased by the Nihtat Gwich'in Council after it received funding back in March through two federal funds — the Jordan's Principle and the Inuit First Child Initiative. Drivers have been hired and the service is set to start Monday morning.

"There hasn't been a school bus service in Inuvik in over 20 years, so we are extremely excited to offer this service," said Kelly McLeod, the president of the Nihtat Gwich'in Council said in a statement to CBC News.

"Our goal is to be able to provide our children with the opportunity to achieve their educational goals by ensuring that they arrive to school on time, while providing a safe, reliable and sustainable service into the future."

The timing of the bus service coincides with students returning to in-person learning at Inuvik's East Three Elementary and Secondary schools after they were closed because of an outbreak of COVID-19.

Masks will be mandatory on the bus at all times, only children from the same households can share seats, and parents are asked to monitor their kids for any symptoms of COVID-19. If they have any symptoms, students are asked not to ride the bus.

The service will mean some parents won't need to drop their kids off anymore, and kids as young as five won't have to walk to school in the frigid winter months in the dark in a town that doesn't have sidewalks, said Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler.

"Anywhere else in Canada, you don't even think about it," she said. "But you come to the North, it's like, 'oh, we don't have school buses.'"

Semmler said the return of school buses has been a long time coming.

About ten years ago she said a group of parents got together to try and advocate for them, but it never went anywhere.

She learned later as a board member with the Inuvik District Education Authority and eventually, as chair of the Beaufort Delta Education Council, it came down to funding.

Semmler said officials were left to choose between a bus service or extra support staff for students with special needs.

MLA hopes service will boost attendance, graduation rates

She hopes the new service will not just get kids to school safely but keep them there.

"We have low graduation rates, low attendance and this was another way to try and increase that," Semmler said.

"So they're at school more, they're attending more, they're keeping up with their grade levels and down the road, they're graduating."

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