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Ottawa school bus parent portal opens with no bus ride for 9,000 students

There is relief and frustration in households across Ottawa, as parents learn whether or not their child has a bus ride to school for the new school year.

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority opened the Parent Portal on Wednesday, with information for parents on school bus routes for Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board schools this fall.

The transportation authority has warned it's short 130 drivers, and approximately 9,000 students are without school bus service for the start of the school year.

"Absolutely frustrating," parent Kristine Seguin said in an email to CTV News Ottawa Wednesday morning, noting her two children in rural Ottawa do not have school bus service.

"We would have hoped these teens who have no access to OC Transpo, Uber, Taxi service etc. would be prioritized over those schools who do have access to transportation."

Seguin tells Newstalk 580 CFRA Ottawa at Work with Patricia Boal the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority told her there is no school bus available.

"We don't really have any options," Seguin said she lives 20 km from West Carleton Secondary School.

"We can't walk, they can't really bike because its 80 km/h roads, we have no OC Transpo so it's really up to the parents to figure it out and either choose, as OSTA said, keep them home and do online schooling or drive them in."

Seguin says she will drive her two kids to school, which is one-hour round trip.

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority announced on Monday it had negotiated agreements with nine out of 10 bus companies serving Ottawa, and a contract for service to some west end schools was not reached.

Parents can check information about school bus routes on the OSTA website's Parent Portal.

Families who do not have transportation on a yellow bus this fall due to long-term cancellations as a result of the driver shortage will receive Single Ride Vouchers for OC Transpo. The OSTA says the vouchers for families in the Urban Transit Area will allow a young person and a guardian to use OC Transpo to get to and from school every day. Parents and guardians can submit an application, and the Single Ride Vouchers will be sent to schools every two weeks.

But many affected families do not have access to public transit.

Parent Jennifer Damiano says she has limited options.

"I can drive him in the morning but as an educator I can not pick him up in the afternoon, so right now, as a single parent, he is stuck in the afternoon," she said. "I'm pretty stressed. I feel that being a rural resident and being at a rural school, I would be happy to let him go on public transport like OC Transpo but I don’t have that option."

She says her child's school is 9.5 km away, nearly a two-hour walk.

Meghan Gelineau says all she can do is look for families to carpool with.

"It's a big challenge to try to find out how he’s getting to school," she says. "My husband is in the fire department, so with that shift work, it's very challenging with our two schedules. We live in Carp and it's a 14-kilometre walk to All Saints High School. It's not doable without sidewalks and, unfortunately, OC Transpo does not come out to our area."

Meantime, many Grades 7 to 12 students will be assigned to take OC Transpo to school instead of a school bus. Eligible students will receive a free Presto School Boarding Pass, valid from the beginning of September until June 30.

Ottawa Student Transportation Authority chief administrative officer Vicky Kyriaco told CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday that it "is going to be a bumpy start" to the school year.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Natalie van Rooy. Top Stories

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