A few weeks ago, I returned to Atikokan for a brief holiday. I was born and raised in Atikokan, and all my family still lives in the area. The talk of the town is the pending loss of the school bus.
I’ve had the opportunity to read a number of articles in both the Atikokan Progress and Fort Frances Times. It is obvious to me that the school board strongly believes in its position, as do the staff, parents, children, and residents of Atikokan.
In my experience, there are rarely only two solutions to a problem. To say something is either black or white simply limits creativity and means that both sides lose.
In this case, it’s obvious what the school loses. However, by dogmatically sticking to this course of action, the school board also loses—it loses the faith, support, and respect of an entire community.
Many in the community feel that once again the “little guy” is getting the short end of the stick.
Before the board sticks in its heals and pushes this plan through, I’d like to appeal to them to be creative. Listen to the concerns and worries of the community, and work with them to find a solution that works for all.
Off the top of my head, I can think of a few solutions that might be more satisfactory than the current one. Perhaps there’s the possibility of renting a dedicated bus and having the bus drivers (volunteer teachers in this case) operate it under the bus company’s insurance.
I currently am on the board of directors for a day care out in Alberta, and that is the arrangement we have entered into with a local bus. We simply pay based on the mileage used on the bus.
This ensures we keep our costs down and do not have to rely on third-party drivers (which has been a huge issue for us in the past).
Another possible solution is to have the town or a charitable organization (e.g., Lions Club) pursue purchasing a bus and operating it for the school and/or other groups (e.g., senior trips in and around Atikokan).
In this I mean the town/group could simply lease/rent the bus back to the school, and issues such as insurance and maintenance would be handled by the owner.
Again, I appeal to the board and the high school to be open to change and open to constructive dialogue. I’m not saying that my suggestions are ultimately the best compromise, however, I’m sure there is a middle ground where all parties could be satisfied.
Let’s try and make this issue a win-win for everyone.
Tammy Kehl, P.Eng.