It’s More Than a Bus!
Idea - If successful with this funding request, the funds would contribute to the total cost of a new Renfrew bus. The Idea underlining this request is that a partial cost contribution towards the purchase of a Renfrew bus is not simply the purchase of a piece of equipment but rather is a benefaction that will serve children with special needs, their families and the new communities in which they live for years to come. Families need to have their children transported to the Renfrew site of specialized programming that serves the community in which they are living in. The next school year will see ever more need of Renfrew transport vehicles to accommodate the families and children living in the farther reaches and new communities of Calgary. To this end, this funding request of $15,000 is for the partial cost of a new bus that will start servicing new Calgary communities within the 2022 year.
Background - Renfrew Educational Services Society (Renfrew), a not-for-profit registered charity, has been at the forefront of innovative work with children with special needs for 48 years. Renfrew has four centres in Calgary and serves more than 550 children. Our programs support preschool and elementary education for children with severe special needs including children diagnosed with Autism, behavioural disorders, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other motor disorders.
Renfrew transports 550 children – 90% of the total student population - every day, to and from school, with a fleet of 48 buses (including 4 standby buses, for on-call needs). Families are charged a nominal fee for the door-to-door service of Renfrew busing, and can be subsidized if this fee causes financial stress. All drivers are professionally licensed and certified in “S” Endorsement, First Aid and CPR training. Ongoing training ensures the highest possible level of skill and safety proficiency amongst Renfrew drivers. Each bus is outfitted with safety equipment and seats that can accommodate all children’s needs; 29 buses can transport one or two wheelchairs. A stringent maintenance schedule ensures the safety and reliability of the fleet. Currently 5 buses have accrued around 300,000 kilometers, and so are due for replacement. Additionally, the distances buses must travel increase with the growth of Calgary; Renfrew continues to adapt and respond with more routes each year as new communities are being developed and pushed to the city limits.
Who Will it Benefit?
A new bus would expand the scope of Renfrew's service provision to routes in new Calgary communities. This significant contribution to the Renfrew fleet imbues tangible and intangible benefits upon the children who get transported to school by bus, their families and the new communities.
In concrete terms, a bus enables children to get to their Renfrew program and so would directly benefit the 280 children a bus would service over the 10 years of its life. However, a busing service capacitates so much more than that. The literature acknowledges what Renfrew knows through years of working with children with special needs and their families – that daily living activities are more time-consuming, stressful and difficult when one has a child with special needs. Renfrew surveys consistently indicate that issues related to transportation create major barriers to accessing services and participating in the community. For families dependent on public transportation, the waiting and travelling time can exacerbate the ability of a child with special needs to remain regulated and calm in the public sphere, and families will often forego programs rather than try to overcome this challenge on a daily basis. For vehicle owners, the cost of running that vehicle can be onerous enough to prohibit enrolling their child in one of Renfrew’s programs. In addition to these very practical benefits of a bus, a bus ride enriches the programs of children in ways not immediately apparent.
Getting children to and from their program, simultaneously adding educational and social experiences, lessens stress for families; transportation that parents feel safe and confident with, and does not create a financial stressor, enables parents the opportunity to attend to other tasks and needs such as work. With this comes a healthier and less stressed family unit for children to return to, a home environment that cements and augments the child’s learning that has happened throughout the programming and day on the Renfrew bus. Below, a parent's own words is powerful testimony to the far-reaching benefits of a bus:
"Renfrew's bussing service has been invaluable to our family. We have three children attending Renfrew at two different locations. The buses come right to our house, which is fantastic. Having special needs kids makes simple things like getting ready for school extra stressful sometimes, and having the convenience and consistency of the busses makes everything so much easier."