Rankin Inlet school buses will keep rolling in 2014-15
Government and friendship centre agree to updated one-year contract
School buses in Rankin Inlet will continue to run in the fall as they have for the past 10 years, thanks to a one-year agreement with the Government of Nunavut to increase the value of the bus contract with the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre.
Fears that school kids would have to go without bus service in 2014-2015 came up when the non-profit friendship centre, which provided school bus service since 2004, said in June that it would not renew its contract because it could no longer afford to run the service on $105,000 a year.
Pulaarvik’s new one-year contract with the Rankin Inlet District Education Authority amounts to a maximum of $190,000, “which makes more sense,” said Jocelyn Bouthillier, finance officer for the friendship centre.
The old $105,000 amount, paid by the Government of Nunavut and managed by the Rankin Inlet District Education Authority, which handles the contract, had stood unchanged since the start of the agreement, according to the centre’s executive director, George Dunkerley.
The centre suffered a loss of $118,000 from its school bus service for 2013-2014, and more than $130,000 the previous year, Bouthillier said.
“It’s not sustainable, the way it was done,” Bouthillier told Nunatsiaq News.
The Friendship Centre offers counselling, educational, and cultural programs for the community. Losses from the school bus contract have eaten into the centre’s administrative budget.
Dunkerley, who was on vacation and could not be reached for comment, said in June that school bus expenses have taken away from the centre’s ability to pay for building maintenance and kept it from hiring new staff.
Repairs to the buses amounted to a whopping $181,000 during the last school year, the finance officer said. Pulaarvik’s contract with the DEA, plus revenue from non-school charters came to about $133,000.
“So just with repairs, you’re already $50,000 down,” Bouthillier said. “Plus we have to pay for the bus drivers and all that.”
Pulaarvik has run two school buses in the hamlet since 2004, with a third vehicle as back-up, which transport more than 300 children to the community’s high school and two elementary schools at the height of the school year.
Worries that kids would have to find a different way to get to class were quickly met by the Government of Nunavut’s department of education in late-June, just after the school year ended, when it worked out an agreement to increase the value of the contract to Pulaarvik.
“We figured out basically what is a fair value for what they could do to give us service for one more year,” said Stan Anderson, chair for the Rankin Inlet DEA.
Although the agreement has yet to be finalized, “we have verbal agreements basically all the way around,” Anderson said. “We’re still waiting for people to return from holidays to actually sign on the dotted line.”
“The department of education is actively working on getting a request for proposals out for bussing service after that one year,” Anderson added.
“So we’re really glad that we have a one-year reprieve, for lack of a better word. And hopefully that’s enough time for potential contractors to reply and get that in the works for the following school year,” he said.
Mindful that Pulaarvik is the only agency in the hamlet that actually has the vehicles and organization in place to provide the service, Anderson said the DEA is hopeful that the centre “responds to the request for proposals, and puts in a bid.”
Going forward to the 2015-2016 school year and beyond, he added, the territorial government, rather than the DEA, will be responsible for hiring a contractor to provide the service.