OTTAWA -- The gradual return to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Ottawa today, but hundreds will not have school buses to ride.

Thirteen bus routes were cancelled Monday morning, in addition to the 30 announced last week by the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority, due to a severe driver shortage.

Monday evening, an additional six routes were cancelled for September 15th (routes below). 

Elementary students in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board start returning to classes this week, while secondary students in the Ottawa Catholic School Board begin lessons.

In the OCDSB, students in Grades 1 to 3 and Grade 7, depending on the school, return today. In the OCSB, it's Cohort A of Grades 9-12 who start classes.

Driver shortage cuts bus service

More than 2,300 students will be without yellow school bus service this week, as OSTA faces what it has called a "severe" shortage of drivers.

The busing provided by OSTA was already delayed by one week as OSTA worked to evaluate seating plans, routes, and bus capacity to fall in line with COVID-19 protocols. The driver shortage was announced last week.

On Friday, OSTA said 30 routes have been cancelled for Monday, affecting 45 schools. Monday morning, an additional 13 routes were cancelled, according to OSTA's Twitter account.

"OSTA continues to work with its operators and OC Transpo to find creative solutions to provide service to as many students as possible during these unprecedented circumstances. Some grade 7-12 students have been transitioned to public transit, and some yellow bus service have been changed and/or cancelled as of Monday, September 14," OSTA says on its website.

Parents are urged to check OSTA's parent portal each morning for updated information on cancelled bus routes.

The authority says 2,360 students will not receive transportation services until more drivers become available.

COVID-19 cases in schools

There are six confirmed COVID-19 cases in either staff or students at schools in Ottawa, as of the latest update from the Ontario government on Friday.

The six schools are all in the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE). Four students and two staff members in total have tested positive for COVID-19. Out of an abundance of caution, Ottawa Public Health ordered 190 students and 10 staff members to self-isolate as of Labour Day. Ottawa Public Health has been clear in saying that none of these individuals was exposed to COVID-19 while at school. 

There are no outbreaks at any schools in Ottawa. An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 tests in students and/or staff (or other visitor) in a school within a 14-day period, where at least one person could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before/after school care), and no obvious source of infection outside the school setting.

Between Friday and Sunday, 111 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Ottawa.