Students in Inuvik now have access to regular school bus services after the Nihtat Gwich’in Council purchased two buses and trained people to drive them.
Bus service will begin on Monday. Announcing the project’s completion on Facebook, the council said the “benefits to our youth are incalculable.”
Kelly McLeod, president of the Nihtat Gwich’in Council, said by email the service relies on funding from Jordan’s Principle and the Inuit Child First Initiative Fund.
“There hasn’t been a bus service in the community of Inuvik, and we are extremely happy to be providing this service,” McLeod said.
“Our goal is to be able to provide our children with the opportunity to achieve their education goals by ensuring that they arrive to school on time, while providing a safe, reliable, and sustainable service in the future.”
The group posted the bus route to Facebook on Thursday. Students must wear masks on the bus. Hand sanitizer will be available. Only children from the same household may share seats.
Jennifer Costa, a parent and member of Inuvik’s district education authority, said the buses will be a big help during winter months without sunlight.
“Students who are walking to school in the mornings, it can be a bit dangerous and a little scary walking in the dark and in the cold,” Costa said.
“Those are two really strong barriers to kids making it to school in the morning and on time. And again in the evenings, when it’s about 3:30pm, it’s dark already.”
She added wildlife, though not common, can be a concern.
“For a young child to be walking on his or her own, that can be quite scary,” she said.
Costa, who has lived in the community for eight years, says there has never been a school bus service in that time but it was “very strongly desired” by residents.
Her five-year-old child is “so excited” to ride a bus to school.
“I have a feeling the novelty is going to be really big for a lot of the students and they will be very excited to hop onto a school bus,” she said.
“I think it’s warm and inviting, especially since there are two drivers from the area that are going to be driving, so they’ll know the kids.
“Great things happen when the community comes together and works together to serve the youth in our community.”