Parents of children attending Dangan National School, Kilmore, Co Roscommon say they have been left in the ‘impossible’ situation of having to fundraise over €9,000 in order to keep their school bus service in place for the 2012/13 school year.
For a number of years the Roscommon Rural Lift programme has provided €9,000 towards the total running costs of the school bus which serves families in the Jamestown, Drumsna, Carrick-on-Shannon and Dangan areas of Counties Leitrim and Roscommon.
However, in June this year, parents of the 29 children who use the bus service, were informed that Rural Lift would no longer be able to provide funding for the service and concerned parents immediately set up a special sub-committee to try to find a solution to the problem.
The bus service, which is provided by a private company, costs in the region of €16,000 a year to run. Even with the money previously provided by Rural Lift, parents still had to pay a total of €7,000 towards the running costs of the service. This worked out at €250 a year for one child; €375 a year for two and €500 a year for those with three children using the service.
Without the Rural Lift funding the costs of the service for parents would rise to between €1,500 to €1,800 per year per child.
Speaking to the Leitrim Observer, Parent’s Sub-Committee members, Joe Shannon and Michelle Holmes said that parents had been shocked last June to hear that funding was being withdrawn for the service.
“We looked at all the options but the only one we really have is to try and fundraise to make up the shortfall that has arisen because we’ve lost the funding from Rural Lift,” explained Joe.
The parents said that they had looked at the possibility of starting a car-pooling service but said that insurance concerns left parents unwilling to risk such a scheme if the bus service was lost.
“There is also the fact that most of the parents of children using this service are actually working so there would be issues with being able to car pool from that as well,” added Michelle.
Parents also considered purchasing their own bus and employing a driver however the costs they said, “were simply too high to make this viable”.
Parents also looked at the possibility of providing after school care at the school but this idea had to be shelved because of a lack of resources.
“The only way we can see going forward is to meet the funding gap of €9,000 and we have already held a race night which has raised in the region of €5,000 towards this and we are now planning a ‘Big Cookery Demo’, led by local chef, Sham from The Cottage Restaurant, Jamestown and featuring a Leitrim vs Roscommon celebrity cook-off at Dangan Community Centre on Thursday, November 22,” said Joe.
“Really, we are very grateful for the support of the community and of the staff of Dangan NS. Without everyone’s help we wouldn’t be able to raise the money we need.”
The parents say that they are “frustrated” by the lack of understanding shown by the Government for children attending small rural schools like Dangan.
“There is no school in Jamestown and there hasn’t been for over 30 years,” pointed out Michelle to our reporter, “but, when we contacted the Department of Education about funding for the service, were told we should be sending our children to Jamestown NS. They didn’t even seem aware that the school had been closed for decades.”
Although some of the children could transfer to other schools in the area if the bus service was totally lost, the parents say that this would be a ‘last resort’.
“Our children have always gone to Dangan NS. It is a brilliant school and it only has around 62 or 63 pupils in it with three teachers,” explained Joe. “If the bus service was lost some of the children would be forced to leave Dangan NS and that could mean the loss of a teacher. In rural schools it is already difficult to keep up numbers. This bus brings 29 children to this school, that is nearly half of the pupils. It is vital that the service continues.
“We know that €9,000 is a lot to fundraise, especially now, but we aren’t asking people to pay for our children’s bus service. We, as parents, still pay for each child to go on that bus, we just need help in replacing the funding that was provided by Rural Lift. Without this money there will be no bus service and there is no bus service which would bring our children to other schools in the area. We’re in a very difficult situation,” added Michelle.
“There just doesn’t seem to be any joined up thinking when it comes to transport for rural schools. We don’t qualify for the Government school transport scheme and we don’t have any other options, we just have to raise these funds.”
Tickets for the Big Cookery Demo are available from school committee members or by contacting Joe on (087) 2810000 or Michelle on (087) 238 5644. There will also be 10 local exhibitors and wine tasting on the night with all process going towards the Dangan School Bus service.