Changes coming to Ottawa school bus service due to 'severe driver shortage'
OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) is warning parents to expect significant changes to their children's school bus plans because of a "severe driver shortage."
In a statement on its website, OSTA says there will be "multiple changes coming for transportation services for Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board students."
Some of the changes include transitioning high school students to public transit and cancelling some yellow school bus routes come Sept. 14.
"OSTA is working with its operators and OC Transpo to find creative solutions to provide service to as many students as possible during these unprecedented circumstances. Many parents will likely need to find alternative transportation to get their children to school for the next few weeks until services stabilize," OSTA said.
More information is expected to be shared on Friday.
Unifor, a union which represents some drivers, says members are concerned with the lack of clarity and want standardization form the provinice. Many schools have their own protocols, but the main issue is the large number of students--up to 70 on a bus--making physical distancing impossible
“What they were hired to do, first and foremost, is to safely navigate children through all kinds of conditions to school each day and you can’t do that especially under these times,” says Montgomery. “Theres a lot of concern. We can’t drive in the winter with our windows down. We might not even be able to do that on a rainy day. The air circulation—there’s so many things it’s hard to know where to begin or where it ends.”
This week, 200 students and staff were told to self-isolate after possible exposure aboard buses that carried students from five schools in the French Catholic board after positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in individuals who attend or work at those schools. Ottawa Public Health weighed in saying there were concerns about social distancing.
In August, OSTA announced that yellow school bus service would not be in place until Sept. 14, despite boards returning to classes from Sept. 8 on, because they needed time to evaluate all of the seating arrangements and to coordinate routes with COVID-19 pandemic protocols in place.
The transit authority warned that some routes may be longer or shorter but that some may be cancelled.
A similar driver shortage is affecting some bus routes in the Ottawa Valley, with the Renfrew County Joint Transportation Consortium warning that some students may end up being late to school because of doubled-up routes.