Skip to main content

First day of school in Ottawa brings smiles for kids, frustration for parents seeking transportation

The weather says summer, but the bell has rung and the break is over as more than 110,000 students, across the city mark a return to school.

While most kids give the day a passing grade, the same cannot be said for some parents who have been left in the lurch and scrambling to find last-minute transportation arrangements, after school bus routes were cancelled because of an ongoing driver shortage.

Annabelle Chadwick-Clark skips her way to the schoolyard, ready for the challenge of Grade 2.

"I'm excited to meet new friends and see my teachers," she says. "I have a new pencil case and a new lunch box and a new backpack and a new keychain."

The city's two largest school boards, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board, opened their doors for students to resume class on Tuesday.

But a labour shortage and financial shortfall means the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority had to cancel 36 bus routes, leaving thousands of students with no ride.

Some students have been given vouchers to take OC Transpo, but that is not the case for everyone.

"We have 450 kids at our school, South Carleton High School, that are impacted by this. There are 10 buses that are cancelled," says Hero Van Harten, whose son is one of those kids. "He's only 15, he can't drive himself, and we had no other option and there is no public bus from Stittsville to Richmond, where South Carleton is."

There is no OCDSB high school in Stittsville. Van Harten says the board has no immediate solution and some of the options provided to by officials have been 'very ridiculous.'

"It has felt unreasonable to me that my child should switch schools [to OCSB which has a high school in Stittsville] or my child should have to look at online learning," she says. "This needs to be resolved. It shouldn't be left to the parents to have to provide this kind of emergency transportation for their children. It is not a tenable situation for most parents. Bosses are not going to be this flexible with parents forever. It's true many parents are able to take some time right now to get their kids to school, but that's not going to last all year long."

OSTA says in the coming weeks, routes will be reviewed and altered in an effort to restore transportation needs to students.

Van Harten says she only found out about the cancelled bus a few days before the start of the school year, which made finding alternatives much more difficult.

"I was in panic mode," says Van Harten. "We have now arranged a carpool with four other families and we're lucky but I know there are lots of parents that haven't been able to do that and I'm not sure what they are going to do." Top Stories

Stay Connected